Odyssey Charter School Is Trying To Poach Students From Districts Before September 30th Count

The Greek-themed Delaware charter school, Odyssey, sent out a letter to parents in their area advising them they are still accepting students.  As most involved in Delaware education know, schools get their funding based on the September 30th student count.  Odyssey is trying to beef up those numbers to get more money.

This is a bad idea in very bad taste.  The window for school choice in Delaware closes in mid-January.  As in eight months ago.  While charters are certainly free to accept students after those dates if they have room, actively

soliciting students after the school year has already started is lousy judgment.  It is poaching, pure and simple.  It is money driven, not student driven.  But what many forget is that some charters tend to kick out high-risk students after September 30th.  And guess what?  Some keep the funding they received.

On DSEA President Mike Matthews Facebook page, he brought this up yesterday.  While he didn’t name the school, State Rep. Kim Williams said she is aware of it and did notify the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Will the charter-friendly DOE actually address the situation or just play along to go along?

As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with actual charter schools and the reason for their existence.  But I do take issue with situations like this, when profit and money result in grown-ups making poor decisions.  There are good charters out there but unfortunately when certain charters keep coming up in events like this it is hard to not view the charter problem as a whole.  Whether it is discrimination, poor special education, cherry-picking students, or using lobbying power to get more money at the expense of districts, the Delaware tends to side with the charters.  Even worse, they tend to turn a blind eye to recurring issues such as the ongoing financial cesspool that is Providence Creek Academy, the enrollment preferences at Charter School of Wilmington, or the discrimination factory we call Newark Charter School.  Odyssey should not be attempting to get students from districts this far into the school year.

Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting put the hammer down on Odyssey or will she allow this poaching journey to continue?  And what is your take on this bad education practice?

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Red Clay Board of Education Votes Unanimously For Equity Plan

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education voted unanimously for the district to develop an Equity Plan through their long-standing Diversity Committee.  The resolution, written by board member Adriana Bohm, would charge the committee to develop the Equity Plan, which will be presented to the board by April of 2018.  Many community members came out to give public comment in support of plan.

Where this gets a bit sticky is the two charter schools Red Clay authorizes, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy.  As their authorizing agent, Red Clay can conduct their charter renewal process along with formal reviews, modifications, and other such matters.  But they cannot dictate district policy to those schools and make them follow it.  Both schools have substantially lower populations of racial groups the Diversity Committee would talk about.  Failure to address this huge gap between the districts and those charters would ignore the inherent and not-to-be ignored problems of race in the district.  Based on enrollment preferences, those schools have the tendency to pick and choose who they want based on “specific interest”.

I definitely think Bohm’s resolution is a good one.  Red Clay had mixed results with their Inclusion Plan over the past few years which has prompted significant changes in the way the district handles special education.  Based on 2016-2017 data, Red Clay has more minorities than white students, with the largest of those minorities being Hispanic students at around 30%.  But what I don’t want to see this committee doing is basing student success on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  I do not believe these are a valid measurement of student success in any possible way.  Many in the African-American community feel these are a valid measurement since they include all students, but when the test is flawed it is not a good measurement.

To read the entire plan, please see below.

The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**

All relationships have their ups and downs.  Such is the case between former Kilroy’s Delaware commenter Publius e decere and former Pencader board member and current Christina board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  Throw in a wild card like Henry Clampitt, former board member of Charter School of Wilmington, current board member at Gateway Lab School, and also a candidate for the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education, and you have what I like to call a bizarre love triangle (which just so happens to be an awesome tune by New Order).  But what I found this morning… that brings this triangle to a whole new level… Continue reading “The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**”

Ron Russo Lost Me With Jeb Bush, I Think I’m Going To “Go Home”!

Ron Russo, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Caesar Rodney Institute, wrote a blog post yesterday with a BOLD PLAN for Delaware schools.  By even mentioning former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education in the very first sentence, it was hard to lend any credibility to this piece.  But I read the whole thing out of morbid curiosity.

…Governor Jeb Bush, the keynote speaker, told the attendees that they had to, “Be big, be bold, or go home.”

I would have left at that point and proudly went home.  Jeb Bush has made a ton of money capitalizing off the backs of schools and students.  He is the very essence of corporate education reform.  I give anything he says zero weight.

Russo seems to view former Red Clay Consolidated Board President William Manning as the Messiah of Delaware education:

He recommended a confederation of independent schools each locally managed and free of regulations about who to hire and how to teach.  The schools would be evaluated only by performance data that would be shared with the public.

Manning’s vision created charter schools that do not serve the populations within their district boundaries.  Quite a few Delaware charters have selective enrollment preferences that seem to further segregation and push out kids with high needs.  Manning was the lead attorney in the lawsuit against the Christina School District when charters that serve Christina students sued the district to get more money per student.  Eventually the lawsuit wound up becoming a settlement that further stripped funds away from the district.  Russo’s BOLD PLAN is modeled after the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200:

The Caesar Rodney Institute is supporting a systemic change to our education bureaucracy called the “BOLD PLAN”.  It significantly alters the way the current education system operates by empowering the individual schools to make operational decisions to best serve their students.

In theory, this would be a great idea.  However, Russo lost me yet again when he brought up the VERY controversial priority schools as a potential model for this plan:

CRI’s BOLD PLAN incorporates the best features of the 1995 Charter School Law and the Memorandum of Understanding designed by Delaware’s DOE for Priority Schools.  If the changes proposed in the MOU were expected to raise the performance of the state’s lowest performing schools, why wouldn’t those changes be offered to all public schools?

Sorry Ron, but the priority school Memorandums of Understanding were absolutely horrible and did more to create parent backlash in Wilmington than anything seen before.  So what would this plan consist of?  Therein lies the rub:

BOLD legislation would specify areas of local decision-making.  Such areas would include: 1) Authority to hire and dismiss all staff; 2) All programing inputs (school calendar, schedule, curriculum aligned to Delaware standards, instructional practices and methodology, textbooks, technology, etc.); 3) Marketing and planning; 4) Support services including transportation, food, and maintenance; 5) Budget preparation and expenditure control with surplus operating funds retained by the school.  Schools will have autonomy from any district or Delaware DOE requirements not mandated by state or federal law.

This legislation has more holes than a donut shop.

  1. What happens if the board membership or the Superintendent of the district is not operating under normal parameters of their function?  What if personal grudges get in the way of a sound decision to hire or dismiss all staff?  Delaware is a small state and conflicts of interest are well-known in this state.
  2. You lost me at “Delaware standards”.  If you truly want to give local education authorities the coveted local control, they would be free to set their own curriculum without being tied to any type of standard pushed down from the state or federal government.  I have yet to see any indication Delaware will get rid of Common Core which was created under false pretenses.
  3. Don’t they already do this anyway?
  4. See #3
  5. That would not be a good thing.  Delaware charter schools already keep their surplus transportation funds in a sweetheart deal with the General Assembly and there is no apparatus to make sure those funds are being used with fidelity.  What is the point of even having a district or charter board if the school can do whatever it wants with extra money?  This proposal sounds like anarchy.

Russo’s logic becomes even more confusing when he casually drops the Rodel Visionfests and Race To The Top into his conversation:

The BOLD PLAN complements Delaware’s other education improvement efforts (Visions, Races, etc.).  In fact, it may even complete them.

I don’t think completion of those plans is something anyone in Delaware really wants.  Race To The Top was an unmitigated disaster with funds going to the state Department of Education more than local school districts.  The Vision Coalition goals further perpetuate many bad corporate education reform policies.  It is hard to take anything they do seriously when the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Dr. Herdman, makes over $345,000 a year.

Ironically, Russo channels Dan Rich who has been very involved with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s proposed Wilmington redistricting.  But Russo doesn’t bring him up in any way related to that endeavor but rather his involvement with the Vision Coalition:

At the very first Vision 2015 meeting hosted by Dan Rich, then Provost of the University of Delaware, he ended the meeting by telling the attendees that if they wanted to improve Delaware’s public schools they had to be bold and, if they didn’t want to be bold, they should get out.  Hmmmm, it seems that Dan was way ahead of Jeb.

Comparing Rich to Jeb Bush almost seems insulting.  Of course, any education push should be bold.  But by telling people if you don’t like it to “get out” or “go home” it is essentially saying if you don’t agree with us we won’t give you the time of day.  That is NOT the way education issues should be ironed out and only creates more of a divide.  The Delaware charter school experiment, now well into it’s third decade, has met with very mixed results.  It has not been the rousing success the forefathers of the original legislation thought it would be.  Why would Delaware even entertain this idea based on that?  And lest we forget, all this imaginary “success” is based on standardized test scores, of which Delaware has gone through three different state assessments since then.  Sorry Ron, but this is not a BOLD PLAN.  It is an old plan, that just plain doesn’t work.

I have to wonder about the timing of this article.  The Caesar Rodney Institute has long been a fierce supporter of school vouchers.  Delaware has been very resistant to that system under Democrat control but under the Trump administration and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education, it is not surprising to see Russo coming out with this type of article.  President Trump and DeVos want a federal school voucher system that has already met with disappointing results in several states.

Why Didn’t Charter School Of Wilmington Sue Red Clay?

According to the draft minutes of Charter School of Wilmington’s latest board meeting, the school lost a lot of money due to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky deciding not to move forward with changes to the local funding formula for choice schools in Delaware.  So why didn’t CSW take the same sort of action Newark Charter School and fourteen other charters did in their decision to sue Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education?

According to their chief financial officer, CSW lost $90,000.00 due to Secretary Godowsky’s decision.  That isn’t exactly chump change.  But it also says a lot.  It means it wasn’t just charter schools that take from Christina schools that were affected by the decision.  While I don’t know the exact amount of students CSW has from Christina, I know it isn’t that much.  So I would guess that CSW’s stated “loss” is due to Red Clay.  On the flip side, Providence Creek Academy joined the big lawsuit and only has a very few students from Christina.  I guess when you do it as a huge lump thing, matters like attorney fees and whatnot can be divvied up evenly among the many parties.  It would not make sense from CSW to sue Red Clay, even if they had Delaware Military Academy join them.  That would make their attorney fees a lot higher.  If they lost, the amount they could expect to gain would be much less than $90,000.00.

With all this being said, I still think this lawsuit is complete idiocy in motion.  It is just another excuse to go after Christina.  And I still have a sneaky feeling there is much more to all this than meets the eye.  Something doesn’t add up.  But I’ll figure it out.  Trust me on that!

The Kathleen Davies Mystery Deepens As Charter School Petty Cash Letters Come Out & Many Charters Get Sue-Happy

Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many.  Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night.  They showed some very extreme violations of state code.  As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies.  These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools:  Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler).  These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released.  But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring.  Now we can clearly see why.

Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive.  The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”?  That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.

We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well.  We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office.  It could be a combination of any of these people.  It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.

Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection.  That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett.  When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders.  Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity.  Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware.  Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican.  Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters.  I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.

 

Odyssey Charter School:

  1. petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
  2. 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
  3. 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
  4. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83

Delaware Military Academy:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
  3. checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
  4. 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
  5. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
  6. failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”

Charter School of Wilmington:

  1. had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
  5. had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
  6. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11

Sussex Academy:

  1. 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
  2. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95

 

So let me get this straight.  Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture?  And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters?  That were NEVER released to the public, until now?  And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky.  All charter school leaders and board presidents.  My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools.  As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office.  As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program.  But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:

We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible.  Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.

So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable.  She followed the procedure.  Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless.  Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock.  A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well.  But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner.  And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky?  How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law?  Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner?  This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.

This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware.  They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues.  We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb.  One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas.  They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders.  They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that.  If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.

This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula.  I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course.  As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit.  They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen.  Which they did.  Delaware is a very corrupt state.  If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked.  There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt.  If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.

But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit.  One Kathleen Davies.  The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections.  One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS.  While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed.  Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions.  NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out.  It had to disappear.  We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires.  But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe.  It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements.  But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies.  Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact.  I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.

Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office.  This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.

She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.

Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor.  What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts.  By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year.  There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.

Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.

All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law.  But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school.  Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether.  Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this.  Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way.  As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September.  That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.

At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies.  If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here.  This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:

  • 515 Oversight and revocation process.

(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.

(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner.  Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware.  Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing.  Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality.  They are what outside interests want.  These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.

This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity.  As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this.  As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors?  I believe it is time to find out.  It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances.  Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware.  If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.

In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:

Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell

Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos

Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli

The Man Who Wants To Expand Charter School of Wilmington Models Across New Castle County

Kevin Dombrowski wants the Charter School of Wilmington model to expand around New Castle County according to an article by the Delaware Business Times yesterday.  Dombrowski works in Wilmington as the Senior Vice President of Global Business Development for Morningstar Inc.  The article was about his selection as an honoree of the DBT40, which are 40 emerging Delaware businesss leaders and innovators.  Dombrowski has also been heavily involved with the KIPP charter school chain.  He currently serves on the Leadership Council for KIPP Philadelphia Schools and was a board member at KIPP Chicago for three years from 2009-2011 according to his LinkedIn account.

I would work to remove the barriers in place to practical educational reform in Delaware. Specifically, I would remove restrictions on new charter school developments and build out a plan to launch several new versions of the Charter School of Wilmington throughout New Castle County to meet the excess student demand and to provide more exceptional public school options for families in the area.

Now I’m not sure how much Mr. Dombrowski follows education in Delaware.  I’m not sure if he is aware CSW has long been mentioned as a very controversial school based on their selective enrollment preferences.  I don’t know if he knows even the Delaware Dept. of Education will not consider CSW as a reward school based on those preferences (something that seems to have escaped their notice with Newark Charter School, but I digress).  I don’t think New Castle County could survive replication of Charter School of Wilmington as a chain of sorts.  Unless, of course, they did away with those selective enrollment preferences that result in very low numbers of minorities (except Asians), students with disabilities, and low-income students.   Then, and only then, would we be able to measure the true success of CSW.  Mr. Dombrowski, were you aware that CSW was one of the named schools in the American Civil Liberties Union complaint filed with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights?

Student Body Activity In Delaware Schools A Hotbed For Fraud & Abuse! Why Is $118,126.88 Such An Important Number?

The Delaware accounting system is a train wreck of epic proportions.  I found 100% proof funds were switched around that benefit certain schools.  We have one charter school that can’t even follow proper accounting procedures and another charter school that seems to think Student Body Activities are their personal playground.

FY2016StudentBodyActivityDistrictCharters

For something like this chart, I would expect to see school districts firmly in the lead, but we don’t see that at all.  Cape Henlopen is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Delaware school districts.  They get a lot of money from school taxes and the residents in those areas don’t seem to mind paying them.  But Newark Charter School, with $445,000 in student body activities?  That is an excessively high amount.  For a charter school with a student population of less than 14% of the neighboring Christina School District, they spend 17 times more on activities for students than Christina.  Four districts and one charter don’t even have anything coded as “Student Body Activity” with the state: Caesar Rodney, Colonial, Delmar, Sussex Tech, and Sussex Academy.  Do they not have any student body activities or do they just put it somewhere else in the Rubik’s Cube called the Delaware Financial System (DFS)?

So how does this even work?  Are districts and charters paying out for field trips and fun activities and then reimbursing those costs as revenue generated from parents paying for them?  Are these schools paying for them without collecting any money from students?  Or is it a combination of both?

Do these activities affect the bottom line for the per student costs for each district and charter school?

FY2016StudentBodyActivityPerStudent

Rocketing to number one with $108,000 in student body activity costs based on their number of students is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPSS).  That sure is a lot of field trips!  We know they bought a fire truck for their students last winter, but those funds were generated from a collection by students.  So what accounts for such a high amount based on their student population?  I went on Delaware Online Checkbook and found that DAPPS is coding all their student transportation costs under student body activity.  So that throws their numbers way off!  We can clearly see the transportation costs as part of this category, with an amount totaling $84,236.  Had they coded this correctly, under student transportation, their costs for student body activity would have been a little over $23,000.

For Newark Charter School’s student body activity expenses on Delaware Online Checkbook, there is no explanation for their very high amounts.  While we do see transportation costs, they are not as high as DAPSS.  They appear to be transportation costs associated with field trips.  What is even more bizarre are the many payments going to certain individuals.  As if they are parents or teachers.  We see amounts going out to American Airlines for 26 purchases of what I assume to be airline tickets at $818 each and one for $875 totaling over $21,000 on 2/5/16 which were bought with the state procurement card on 1/15/16.  I reviewed NCS board minutes and found no mention of any big field trips for students taking place that would warrant such high airline ticket prices.  The state’s accounting manual is explicit that no state employee can purchase first class airline tickets.  So where was this trip to that cost $818 for each ticket?

Cape Henlopen has an obscene amount of p-card activity associated with student body activities under student body activity.  Like Newark Charter School, I see a lot of names associated with these charges.

Where this gets incredibly odd is when I went to look at examples of student body activity for different school districts and charters.  A Delaware citizen submitted a FOIA request to the state and received the FOIA in early July.  All of this citizen’s information was run by the Department of Finance on 7/2/16 for every single district and charter school’s expenses for Fiscal Year 2016.  June 30th was the end of the fiscal year.  All the charts and graphs I have made to date have been based on those figures.  But upon review, amounts are changing in the state accounting system.  The total expenditures for each district and charter are the same, but funds are moving around in the coding system.  As an example, Odyssey Charter School showed over $35,000 in student body activity costs.  But when I look now on Delaware Online Checkbook, the amount is over $153,000.  This trend occurred with many districts and charters, some for nominal amounts and some for rather considerable amounts.  And this is just under student body activity expenses.

In looking at Odyssey, it became clear something was up, so I was able to actually find the exact amount that was shifted over to student body activity.

odysseystudbodyactivity

In the above picture, we clearly see Odyssey Charter School, as of 21:06:44 on 07/02/16 had a total amount for FY2016 in Student Body Activity in the amount of $35,831.91.

odysseystudbodyactivitydeonlinechkbook

In the above snapshot, taken from Delaware Online Checkbook today about ten minutes ago, we clearly see an amount showing $153,958.79.  The difference between the two is $118,126.88.  That is a rather steep increase for student body activities!  In looking at their expenses for student body activity for Odyssey, I found two rather large amounts going to First Student Inc.  This is the bus company Odyssey uses.  As seen in the below picture, the two charges were for $69,486.40 and $48,640.48.  If you add those up, you get $118,126.88.  Now why would those funds be shifted from some other category to student body activity?

OdysseyFirstStateIncBusPmtsFY2016

The two payments to First Student Inc. are listed in the below picture.

odysseyfirststateincpmts$118k

So if $118,126.88 was shifted to Student Body Activity, where did the funds come from?  If Odyssey’s total expenditures didn’t change, what happened to the money?  In the FOIA from 7/2/16, it clearly shows Odyssey’s Fleet Rental costs at $612,546.34.

OdysseyFleetRental

Now watch what happens when I go on Delaware Online Checkbook to find out the current Fleet Rental amount for Odyssey Charter School…

OdysseyFY2016FleetRentalDEOnlineChkbook

Wait, it went down from $612,546.34 to $494,419.46.  That is a difference of $118,126.88

There is one thing charter schools get that traditional school districts don’t get.  Some call it the transportation slush fund.  Every year, in the epilogue to the state budget, there is a stipulation that allows charter schools to keep any difference between their budgeted amount for transportation and what they actually spend.  For Odyssey, this is listed as “Transportation” in their budget.  These costs go up each year.  But how much did charter schools get to keep from these surplus funds.  Surely it wasn’t that much.  In the below pictures from FY2014 and FY2015, we see how much charters get back from this slush fund.

OdysseyFY2014TransportationFunds

FY2015BusContracts

Odyssey has clearly benefitted from this arrangement with legislators that has continued for the past seven years in the epilogue of the state budget.  I sincerely hope charters aren’t hiding any funds so they can actually get more from the Delaware Charter School Transportation Slush Fund then they already are!

What I am more curious about with these coding changes are 1) Why are they happening, 2) Who is making the changes, and 3) Are both the districts or charters and the state aware of these changes if only one of them are making the changes?  Something to keep in mind is this simple fact: this is only for Student Body Activity.  There are hundreds of codes in the Delaware Financial System.  This is just what I could find for our schools in one code.

FY2016CodingChangesStudentBodyActivity

In the picture above, this is based on rounded off figures to the nearest dollar which is why the Odyssey number doesn’t match up with the $118,126.88 I mentioned a few times.  I have not been able to look at the other schools to see where the money is going to.  Odyssey was easy because of the high amounts involved.  While some of these amounts are small, what other shifts are going on?  Why are they going on for other areas if they are?  We know districts and charters code things incorrectly but who monitors that?  Does anyone?  And how much does all this shifting of taxpayer dollars affect funding for the next fiscal year?

I would strongly recommend each district or charter school Chief Operating Officer or Business Manager proactively gets in touch with me and voluntarily lets me know of any changes being made to the Delaware Financial System, the justification for these changes, and how they are able to do it.  If they aren’t aware of these changes, they need to let me know that as well.  Because as I go through each of the different codes in the coming weeks, I will find more.  I’ve already done a cursory glance at different (and major) categories and found excessive sums of money shifting around.  If you don’t get in touch with me, don’t get upset when I blast the lack of transparency from your school or district in each article.  We know this is happening.  So the choice is simple: be held accountable or be honest.  If there is funny business, you know I will expose it and call you out on it.  And each time, I am submitting requests to the State Auditor’s office for each and every category.  So you can ignore me all you want, but know that someone else will be knocking on your door.  And if the State Auditor’s office ignores this, it is time to take steps at a Federal level.  None of you who are manipulating funds will be allowed to do so anymore.  If the Auditor won’t hold you accountable, I will.  And I will make so much noise you won’t be able to hear above the outcries of the citizens in your district or charter school.  This begins now.  I don’t want to hear any crap about “I didn’t know” or “no one ever told me”.  You are all subject to the rules of this state.  Your excuses are exactly that: an excuse.  If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to worry about.  But someone has to shake all this up and see what settles at the bottom.

I sincerely hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s party and ruining a chance to get some extra money for themselves.  The party’s over.  Deal with it.

 

15 Months Later: No Answers From Office of Civil Rights On ACLU Complaint About Segregation In Delaware Schools

In December of 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and the Delaware Community Legal Aid filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education.  The complaint was against the State of Delaware and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  The allegations in the complaint were around how the state and Red Clay, as charter school authorizers, allowed charters to develop segregation and discriminatory practices in their enrollment.  Almost three months later, after the ACLU gathered information from people around the state, they submitted the information to the Office of Civil Rights in their regional Philadelphia office.  Since then, their has been no official resolution on the matter.

Back in February, the Racial Justice Program of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation based out of New York reached out to the Office of Civil Rights for a status update.  This is what they received back:

OCRLetter21916

None of the charter schools listed in the complaint officially changed any of their admissions policies as a result of this.  The Delaware Enrollment Preferences Task Force submitted their final report to the General Assembly shortly before the holidays last year, and not one piece of legislation has come out to address the issues.  There is still a great amount of inequity in some Delaware charters compared to their neighboring school districts.  I find it ironic both the Delaware DOE and the US DOE are so concerned about civil rights groups when it comes to high-stakes testing and how opt out could bring us back to “dark days” as some have put it.  But when it comes to visible and transparent discrimination and segregation, the one office in the federal Government who could actually do something about it is sitting on it.

In looking at the OCR website at ed.gov there have been OCR complaints filed and resolved after the Delaware ACLU and Delaware Community Legal Aid filed their complaint.  One was filed in September of 2015 and received a resolution in February of this year.  The only cases showing from Delaware involved ones with Colonial School District, PolyTech and Family Foundations Academy from 2014.  The longstanding Christina OCR resolution doesn’t show on the list because it only counts resolutions from 2013 and up.

I don’t see civil rights groups in Wilmington screaming about this.  Why is that?  When it comes to education and segregation, this is a shining example.  Why are they so quiet on this issue but will say they know Smarter Balanced is a bad test but it is the only measurement for minority students to know if they are succeeding or not compared to their peers?  I have to wonder how much influence the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell may have in making this drag out.  Or possibly even higher up than them.  Are any of our Delaware congressmen following up on this?  John Carney?  Tom Carper?  Chris Coons?  Or how about even Delaware’s own Vice-President Joe Biden?  I’m certain this isn’t a resolution the Delaware Charter Schools Network wants to come out any time soon.

We need to rally civil rights groups on issues like this and not ones about opposition of parent opt out of high-stakes tests.  I am calling on ALL Civil Rights groups to hammer the Office of Civil Rights office in Philadelphia, phone number (215) 656-8541, to make sure they are not stalling on this very important case.

Thank you to Richard Morse, Esq. for the Delaware ACLU in responding to my request to his office for information and allowing me to publish the response from the Office of Civil Rights.

Two Truths And A Lie

This is the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing feature of this blog.  Below will be several groups of statements and facts.  Two will be true and one will be a lie.  It will be your job to guess or determine which is fact and which is fiction!  Comment away!

#1

*EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy are blaming their Smarter Balanced scores on the fact their kids are not as computer literate as their peers in other schools

*Sussex Academy won’t be able to finish their pool because of mercury in the ground.

*Freire Charter School signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Wilmington Police Department

#2

*Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick was so happy their referendum passed he was seen doing cartwheels the next day.

*Academia Antonia Alonso wants no help from the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE with their upcoming move to property at Odyssey Charter School.

*Howard High School of Technology suspended students who were in the bathroom the day of Amy’s death and kept suspending them for weeks on end without any form of due process.

#3

*Charter School of Wilmington held a legislative breakfast.

*Charter School of Wilmington wants an audit inspection to be released that has been on hold since March.

*Charter School of Wilmington will be allowing 20% of all students with disabilities who applied this year to be admitted to the school in August.

#4

*Early College High School parents are not happy about the school’s grading system since the school’s scores didn’t match up with Delaware State University’s grading system

*Penny Schwinn is coming back to the Delaware DOE.

*Dr. Lamont Browne mentioned my blog post about his resignation at a Family Foundations Academy board meeting.

#5

*Family Foundations Academy held pep rallies prior to the school’s testing window for the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment to pump up kids.

*A Delaware State Representative recently had a Facebook post titled “State Representative Looking For Beaver”.

*The same State Representative found some beaver and had a barbecue.

Publius, otherwise known as Henry Clampitt…

For years, the online denizens of Kilroy’s Delaware have been subjected to the very pro corporate education reform rants of Publius, aka Henry Clampitt.  Clampitt served on the Board of Directors for the Charter School of Wilmington for many years until he “resigned” with no explanation given to the public whatsoever.  The CSW Board is usually very tight and tends to have many of the same folks on the board for years at a time.

Clampitt also serves on the Legislative Advisory Committee for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Clampitt has been in this role since some point last year.  Clampitt is very “pro-choice” when it comes to a parent’s ability to choose what school their child attends.  I believe this to be admirable, however, given his inability to fully understand how certain charter schools enrollment preferences have adversely affected segregation and discrimination in the Wilmington, DE area, it is an advocacy based on wrong intentions.  Having served on the Delaware Enrollment Preferences Task Force, Clampitt firmly believed in placement tests prior to admission at schools like CSW.

Clampitt and I have gone toe to toe on Kilroy’s Delaware going on two years now.  He is vicious in his attack methods, going so far as to make fun of people’s physical features while hiding behind his online moniker.

A few months ago, someone opened a Twitter account under the name of Henry Clampitt with a twitter handle of @publiusedecere, which is also his name on Kilroy’s Delaware.  Nobody knows who posted this Twitter account, but it disappeared within 24 hours.  For many, it is no secret who Publius really is.

ClampittPublius

When this Twitter account opened, it was in the middle of a major battle between two bills pending in the Delaware General Assembly concerning charter school audits.  On one side was State Rep. Kim Williams and the other was Senator David Sokola.  Williams’ bill passed the House last year.  Sokola introduced his bill in January.  Many felt (which I agree with) that Sokola’s bill weakened Williams’ bill.  At the Senate Education Committee meeting on Sokola’s bill, Williams and Kathleen Davies from the State Auditor’s office faced off against Sokola, Clampitt, and Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Neither bill has gone up for a vote in the Senate since that meeting.

Clampitt attacked Rep. Williams in his “anonymous” blog comments on Kilroy’s Delaware.  If I were a guessing man, I would say Clampitt finally pushed someone over the edge which resulted in this fake Twitter account days later.  Many people sent me the link to this Twitter account.  I was shocked that someone went to that level of creativity to out Clampitt, but I wasn’t surprised.

As our little war has progressed over on Kilroy’s, Clampitt has recently started an online campaign to attack me whenever he gets a chance.  If nothing is even discussed in one of Kilroy’s article, as seen recently with some of his posts about Donald Trump, Clampitt will come out of nowhere in his vain attempts to demean me.  This is why I feel some perspective is needed for those reading Kilroy’s Delaware.  Clampitt has made this personal because he seems to be out to “get me”.  I don’t mind anonymous commenters unless you cross that line too many times.  I’ve written about Publius and Clampitt on here, but never together.  Kilroy has done the same.

Many have felt Clampitt, based on his comments, did himself in with the board at CSW.  Others, including myself, feel he can be very racist or discriminatory in his attempts to win an argument.  Many are just plain disgusted with his online antics.  Words such as “cocky” and “arrogant” are the labels I hear the most when others speak about Publius/Clampitt.

It has been highly rumored that he will attempt a run for the Red Clay Consolidated School Board next year, and will run against President Kenny Rivera.  This is something many in the Wilmington community seem to be dead against.  I’ve seen Clampitt a couple times.  Once at an Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting, and the other at a Red Clay board meeting.  When surrounded by his buddies in the charter community, Clampitt can tend to be very vocal.  But at Red Clay, he is very quiet and reserved.

Clampitt seems to be offended by anyone who disagrees with him.  He seems to have a particular hate for myself and Christina board member John Young.  He is also a fierce believer in standardized testing.  When asked about this, he states the same mantra all who support high-stakes testing: “We need to close the achievement gap.”  The very same achievement gap that has widened even further as a result of tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He believes opt out is wrong and opposes it on every single level.  He takes cheap shot at concerned parents who don’t believe a standardized test is a good measure of academic ability.

Together with his online supporters on Kilroy’s, he has turned what used to be a good place to have earnest discussions about education into a place where many are so offended they don’t come back anymore.  I refuse to leave Kilroy’s “kitchen table” because of a cyber bully.  But I will not continue to be mocked by a man who has so many inherent conflicts of interest.  If this means I am no longer invited to Kilroy’s, so be it.  But I am a firm believer in defending myself when attacked as voraciously as Publius has done.  Last summer, he went way over the line when he attacked my son’s disability.  I wanted to write this then, but I held back.  But as the attacks intensified the past couple months, I felt it was time to take a stand.  If he wants to continue to be a coward thinking he is protected by hiding behind his oh-so-original blog commenter handle over on Kilroy’s, that is his prerogative.  But in the real world, we all know who you are.

It is time to put a face to the name of Publius…

HankClampitt

Will Brandywine Get One Over On Arne Duncan?

This was a very busy week.  I didn’t write as much, but what I put up on March 1st sucked the oxygen out of everything else on this blog.  The Brandywine-Holodick-Wahl Saga is now my second most-read article on this blog.  It jumped over a controverial Teach For America story from last summer and the Charter School of Wilmington due process article and my son’s first day of Common Core division homework.  I knew the article would be big when I wrote it (actually, Pat Wahl did all of the hard work).  But it is still read thousands of times each day.  It has slowed down a bit since last Tuesday, but will it overtake Arne Duncan’s special education regulations from November 2014?  That one had many parents of students with disabilities ticked off during Thanksgiving week that year.  We shall see!  The Brandywine due process story has a ways to go to reach the #1 spot, but it could do it.  We shall see in the next week or next few weeks.

 

The “Intelligently Differentiated” Untermenschen Schools Of Delaware

HolocaustPicture

Publius, a frequent commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, commented about advocacy for the students of Delaware.  In an attempt to demean those who promote equity in our schools, Publius broke down advocates into the following categories: special needs, low-income, English Language learners, orderly school environments, super-rigorous school environments, intelligently differentiated schools, and intelligently intra-school differentiated programs.  While he was mainly talking about the difference between choice schools and traditional schools, this isn’t the first time Publius has used such phrases.  While many know who Publius is, including myself, most of us can only laugh at his terminology.

But this comment was a bit different and shows the true thinking of someone who truly believes that students who are “smarter” should be separated from those who are not.  Such thought created the Charter School of Wilmington.  While some truly believe a school like this is justified in their enrollment preferences, public thought has shifted away from this narrow early 20th Century viewpoint to something more akin to the more modern and rational thoughts around equity and equality.

In the 1930s, Adolph Hitler rose to power because he responded to the fears of the Germans.  By promoting the “Aryan” ideal, Hitler was able to amass an incredible amount of power that allowed him to essentially take over  mainland Europe.  As a result of Hitler’s obsession with this master race, tens of millions of people died in a war that changed the face of the world.  In Nazi Germany’s Civil Service Law, citizens of Germany had to be able to provide documentation that they belonged to the “true” Aryan race, which was mainly Nordic in design.  Those who were not part of this very select “race” were considered subhuman, or untermenschen.

Publius, through his words, truly believes the “strong” should be separated from the “weak”.  He doesn’t use those words, but instead crafts them into such words as “intelligently differentiated”, “talented and gifted”, “orderly”, and “imperatives”.  But at the same time, he wants to be included in all the conversations concerning the problems with Delaware schools:

 Assume that everyone in the dialogue is in good faith and has an honest reason for their views.  If the current environment of attack-vilification persists, then we will get nowhere.

What Publius doesn’t understand is why so many people can’t wrap their head around his century old untermenschen ideals.  He has his defenders over on Kilroy’s, but none go to the lengths he does to justify his comments.  It is extremely hard to have a “conversation” with someone who is so clearly elitist and discriminatory.  I don’t believe Publius even sees this.  He doesn’t realize how his words actually harm charter schools in Delaware.  As the Delaware blogosphere’s largest proponent of school choice and charter schools, he does far more harm than good.  But because he is “that voice”, that advocate, we have to wonder if the stereotype of charter schools is actually based on what he says.  Such views led to the slaughter of over six million Jews in World War II.  While I certainly don’t believe Publius would even remotely come close to advocating such options for those who are different, his words could affect those who do.  There are people in the world today, even in Delaware, who believe in the righteousness of such atrocities.  Situations like this plant the seeds in others to do vile and abhorrent deeds.

Untermensch Effects

But Publius also takes pride in describing others on Kilroy’s Delaware, including myself!

Little Kevin: Despite your striving, you are not “why we fight”

“The People” choose the public will. Not what The Governor tells them to think. Not what a blogger tells them what to think. Especially not a blogger from Dover with no cattle but with a shopworn ballcap.

Notice how he refers to me as “little”.  As well he specifically refers to me as being “from Dover” as if Dover is subpar to where he comes from.  He also seems to think those who live in Dover must be agrarian in nature but I have “no cattle”.  As well, for someone who has never seen me with a “shopworn ballcap”, I also have to wonder how he feels about people who wear baseball hats.  Even more frightening, in looking at my Facebook pictures and other pictures that appear of myself on social media and search engines, the only pictures out there of me with a baseball hat on are from twenty years ago.  That was during my senior year Spring Break when myself and several others spent a week in West Virginia helping out the poor and unfortunate.  Is Publius actually stalking me?  I do wear a “shopworn ballcap” when I mow my lawn or do other outside work.  But Publius would only know that if he happened to be in my neighborhood which I don’t even remotely see as a possibility knowing his identity.  Disturbing or a stereotype?  You be the judge!

To be completely fair, I have gone after Publius many times in reaction to things he has said.  I have called him a “little man” and racist on more than one occasion.  I’m sure those who know Publius and ask him about these things would get a jovial laugh from him and would come back and tell me not to take him seriously.  But words like “intelligently differentiated” disturb me on many levels.  It is very demeaning to a lot of people, but most of all parents of children with special needs.  Parents of children with Down’s Syndrome or other cognitive disorders should be offended by these discriminatory comments.

There are a plethora of other issues with charter schools, but nothing gets the conversation going more than talk about enrollment preferences and counseling out of “troubled” students.  Even Charter School of Wilmington is slowly coming around to this based on their recent board agenda.  There was a discussion topic listed as “increasing low income and special ed applications”.  Earlier this week, I helped a six year old girl with disabilities get into Newark Charter School’s Kindergarten lottery despite a ridiculous application policy the school’s board made last September.

As more and more Delaware citizens come around more and more to a greater weight for civil rights over enrollment preferences, we see those like Publius fighting even harder for their warped ideals and ideologies.  Despite all of this, I hope the day comes when Publius can see the error of his ways and embrace equality and equity.

Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary, Best Teachers & More

Niche.com released their 2016 Best Schools and Districts ranking the other day.  Delaware schools and districts were included in the rankings, but it really wasn’t anything to brag about compared to the rest of America.  But one Delaware high school was ranked 29th for the best high schools in America.  I’m sure it won’t take a rocket scientist for many readers to figure out which one that was and how it got to be on the top!  But listed below are all the district, high school, middle school, elementary, and private high school rankings.  Where is your child’s school on here? Continue reading “Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary, Best Teachers & More”

Conflict Of Interest At Charter School Of Wilmington?

The Charter School of Wilmington.  The holy grail of all Delaware charter schools.  I bow to your excellence.

Okay, with that out of the way, I just have one question. Continue reading “Conflict Of Interest At Charter School Of Wilmington?”

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

16 To Watch In 2016: Henry Clampitt

Henry Clampitt served for years on the Charter School of Wilmington Board of Directors.  He left the board earlier this fall.  Since then, he has been at almost every single Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meeting, as well as many of the sub-committee meetings.  He served on the Enrollment Preference Task Force that looked at application practices, enrollment preferences, and specific interest for public choice schools.  He is a well-known advocate for school choice and charter schools.  As well, he has also attended meetings of the Red Clay Community Financial Review Committee.

As for why Clampitt is attending all these meetings, I don’t have a clue.  Perhaps he is just a concerned citizen.  As far as I know, Clampitt doesn’t have a blog.  Maybe he is gathering up research and insight to start one.  I’m really not sure, but my gut tells me when he makes his move, it will be a very bold one!  But to be that intimately involved in all things Red Clay tells me he will be a person to watch in 2016!  I would love some insight on this Mr. Clampitt!

WEIC’s Charter-District Collaboration Meeting Minutes Show Obvious Barriers

A student from the Charter School of Wilmington described the sense of community at his school, and the concern that this committee might break up that community that is very important to the school.

 

I didn’t expect the Charter School of Wilmington issues to come up so fast in the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission/redistricting initiative, but I’m glad the elephant in the room was addressed in the first Charter and District Collaboration Committee meeting.  The minutes from the September 23rd meeting, seen below, show many of the concerns surrounding the whole charter/traditional conversation from both sides of the aisle.

The one part that was brought up was the whole nature of a “consortium” for the Wilmington charters which was brought up in the original WEAC report (or book if you have it, there are a few thousand of these floating around Delaware).  A commenter made the following statement:

The recommendation in the WEAC report is on collaboration in the form of a consortium. It is important to focus time around that, and decide if a brand new consortium is necessary or if you should work with the existing Charter School Network and Innovative Schools. We need to embrace the existing options and use the organizations we have, and determine what target we are aiming at.

Yeah, I don’t know if I can recommend Innovative Schools as a role model these days.  They have their hands full with the schools they are operating in.  And we all know what is going on with Delaware Met.  To have the Delaware Charter Schools Network running the show is also a recipe for disaster.  They have not shown a true willingness to work with traditional school districts and this has caused a lot of angst with the issues.  Especially when it comes to equity among the two and legislation to even the playing field.

There are lots of other interesting and conversation-starting bits in here.

Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…

Glitch In DOE Reporting Fails To Show School Offenses & Crimes Data For Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep, & Delaware Military Academy

How about those apples? I actually found a huge technicality in the DOE reporting system for bullying and the DOE fixed it in record time.  Contrary to popular belief, things at the Red Clay charter schools are NOT as rosy as the past couple years of bullying and discipline reports provided by the Delaware Department of Education would have you believe.  I was very puzzled when I saw, for two years in a row, none of these three charters had their individual reports come up on the DOE School profiles website.  I emailed John Sadowski, the Program Manager for Climate and Discipline at the DOE this morning and advised him of this.  As of 12 noon, the reports are now available.

I’m not sure what happened, and it didn’t change the Annual bullying report I posted this morning, but it does show some things parents would not have seen before this fix.  I would like to believe this happened because of the odd nature of Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Military Academy being the only charters in the state authorized by a school district.  In this case, the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Using Delaware College Prep as an example, this is the only information parents could see for them on the School Profiles page of the DOE website:

Number of Reported Offenses (2014-15)
School District State
School Crimes (Title 14, Delaware Code, §4112) 1 74 678
Department of Education (DOE) Offenses 23 1,239 10,432
All School Safety Policy in Place N/A
Suspensions and Expulsions
2014-15
Number of Suspensions 44
Number of Expulsions 0
Count of Students Suspended/Expelled 23
September 30 Enrollment 569
Percent of Students Suspended/Expelled 4%
District Percentage 11%
State Percentage 12%

When you hit the tab for details in both these sections you get to see a breakdown for this data as you can see in the below reports. But before 12 noon today, it didn’t come up for the three Red Clay charters while it did for every other public school in the state.  I put up both the reports for Red Clay, before and after so you can see the difference.

Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 6:59am, 10/7/15.
Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 12:25pm, 10/7/15
Charter School of Wilmington Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware College Prep Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware Military Academy Combined Report 2014-2015

So what got me all interested in Red Clay charters and these reports?  It had a lot to do with this article.  I knew the student was suspended for many days over suspected drug activity. I wanted to be sure Charter School of Wilmington reported it right to the state since that was part of the issues at the time. I believe they did, because it shows 20 students were suspended from the school for a total of 118 days.

I don’t believe this was an intentional mistake on the DOE’s part, but oversight and making sure all the reports came up would have been prudent. I’m glad they fixed it though and parents can see what actually happens in terms of reportable offenses at these three schools.

With the current issues Delaware College Prep is going through, knowing they have had 18 fights and a violent felony might be something the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education may want to know about. Although I am curious what the two Delaware DOE offenses are for Delaware Military Academy with nothing checked off in the sections for that category.  Maybe they aren’t done fixing it…