After waiting an extra ten days to put up the audio of their June board meeting, the future of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is once again in doubt. Immediately into their board meeting, Margie Lopez-Waite resigned as President of their board and was than voted into the new Head of School position. Continue reading
Will a Wilmington charter school become embroiled in the ongoing saga of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Las Americas ASPIRA Academy? Many are saying yes. Continue reading
Every year, the Delaware State Board of Education gets to vote on charter school renewals. This year, there are seven charter schools up for renewal. I believe this is a record and will keep the Charter School Office busy from now until then. But this year could be different for these renewals because of events going on the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education that are beyond their control. Continue reading
Ten days. That will make all the difference for the Wilmington charter school. If they don’t get 24 students to apply AND commit to the struggling charter school, they will have their charter revoked at the end of this school year.
It was just last month that Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security narrowly missed getting shut down by the Delaware State Board of Education. But the conditions mounted against them could kick in charter revocation at any time if they failed to comply. The very first condition was the school must have 200 students by May 1st.
Last night, at the State Board of Education meeting, Denise Stouffer from the Charter School Office updated the board on DAPSS’ probation. To date, they had 176 students enrolled for next year. They need another 24 in the next ten days or they are toast. That includes commitment letters signed by parents. They could still reach that number but it would be very tough. Their enrollment number has not gone up much since the State Board rendered their decision last month.
Ten days. For 176 students already enrolled for next year, this could be problematic for them come June 29th if the charter for DAPPS is revoked. These students and their parents or guardians will be forced to find a new school for the 2019-2020 school year. Do they start looking if the school doesn’t meet their numbers by May 1st or wait to see what happens over the next few months?
The State Board of Education, with a 5-0 vote and 1 abstention, declared Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will not close. The State Board’s vote gives DAPSS another year to prove themselves. But there are new conditions.
The Charter School Accountability Committee recommended the school stay open for another year as long as they have a student enrollment of 200 students by May 1st, along with other conditions including utilizing their partnership with the Colonial School District. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting agreed with CSAC’s recommendation with many revisions. She agreed with everything the CSAC recommended but wanted to know by June 29th if Colonial or Las Americas ASPIRAS would help to fill vacant staff positions and a transition plan should the school choose to make Colonial it’s . This must be in agreement with Colonial. If the board doesn’t meet all their conditions by June 29th, their charter will automatically be revoked. Bunting wants more transparency with the whole process. She also wants all teachers to be certified and the charter handed back to the Delaware DOE by mid-2019 so they can begin the transition to Colonial. Bunting had a total of eight conditions.
State Board President Dennis Loftus requested monthly reports to the State Board. His biggest concern was, if the school should close, that students would have enough time to transition to different schools by the new school year. State Board member Wali Rushdan said he was satisfied with Bunting’s recommendation and this allayed many of his concerns about the staff being certified and highly qualified. He expressed the need for a strategic plan, one of Bunting’s recommendations. Executive Director Donna Johnson asked about the recommendation concerning Colonial and ASPIRA helping out with staffing vacancies. Charter School Office Director Denise Stouffer clarified they would receive support by those highly qualified instructors from Colonial or ASPIRA. Loftus wanted to make it clear that DAPSS would either transition to Colonial for charter authorization or they would cease to exist. What happens if Colonial changes their mind?
I predicted this would be the outcome but I was happy to see Secretary Bunting add additional recommendations.
Someone once told me school choice is a roll of the dice. For this parent and her two daughters, it was a one day nightmare that resulted in the parent pulling her children out of the Delaware public education system and homeschooling her daughters. Delaware Design-Lab recently requested a major modification to reduce their enrollment (again), despite winning $10 million dollars from XQ Schools in the Fall of 2016. The parent allowed me to publish an email she sent to the school with her reasons for taking her children out after one day in the school. I did edit the email for grammatical purposes but none of the parent’s complaints were altered in any way. As well, I did take out her daughters’ names and replaced them with Daughter A and Daughter J.
There are numerous reasons that we did not stay with Delaware Design Lab. I am not sure if you are aware how it is being run or what goes on in a normal day but I and the girls saw it.
I wound up in the office in the morning just to let everyone know we were there. There were tons of students in the office arguing about dress code. The secretary couldn’t get into her computer, there was tons of chaos. The substitutes didn’t even know where to go and Mr. Harris was nowhere to be found. They had to have students escort the teachers. The students were complaining they had no money and had to buy new pants for school and came in jogging pants and completely out of uniform standards. This was something you and Mr. Harris had stressed on open house night. There was confusion because the students that took us on tour were not in uniform either and did imply it wasn’t followed to the T at all. Daughter A asked Mr. Harris and he said leggings were fine but Mrs. Hembree said leggings are not allowed at all. There was confusion between Business Professional and Business Casual. I remember both being said. We went out and got stuff to meet the requirements while the current students are held to no standards or consequences. That is minor but when you add it all together after the morning I had, and the day they had, it shows that there is no authority or administration adhering to their own guidelines.
The major things you said in the recruiting open house is almost opposite of our experience. I know you followed through with my emails and we even came in on a Saturday to give you more paperwork. School was pushed back to the 20th because they needed time to create a schedule for the girls. I was more than understanding. When we arrived Tuesday we sat for an hour and a half making schedules that should have already been done. The counselor, Mr. Burke, was nice and I don’t know where the ball was dropped but it was. He wasn’t well-informed with all the Design Lab offerings and the other younger gentleman, also a counselor, Mr. Sherodd, didn’t know the definition of some and didn’t seem to want to be bothered. We were giving grace because we were so appreciative of being accepted late in the year. It didn’t appear the paperwork I had brought in was even looked at.
So we ignored the fact their schedules should have been ready and the teachers weren’t aware of them coming. We also gave grace when they received a new scheduling system and couldn’t figure it out or log in and needed to take training on it to be able to get into the system to make an official schedule. This just added to the confusion and makes all the rumors I heard choosing this school true.
I sent several emails and told you in person the girls had to be withdrawn from Glasgow, and as far as I was told, by Christina School District, they never received it. They withdrew them by my email and acknowledgement of my home school being open. That goes to show that there is no follow through with a simple request that is detrimental to my kids not receiving truancy. I don’t even think Mrs. Hembree read the email about the request being emailed to the district office because I had to give her the email address again in person. All while she is making the copies of my girls’ paperwork, the counselor Mr. Burke is in the office with small talk when he should have been working on the new scheduling system to get my girls a printed schedule instead of a hand written one. I then pick up the girls and they both burst into tears. Each class they endured the students cussing, screaming, shouting out, didn’t raise hands, and they almost cried how the teachers were treated. Most teachers didn’t even acknowledge the girls or talk to them. In not one class, except for History, did they learn and they didn’t even learn that much. I could see if this was the beginning of the year but not February. The process should be seamless, the kids should be on point, and the teachers should be able to teach. They couldn’t even talk because the kids just ran the show. On top of that some classes were so full there weren’t enough desks.
My Daughter J broke her foot and was in a boot. Daughter A was helping her to gym and said oh now here we go to gym which most kids don’t enjoy anyway and the gym teacher comes up behind her and yells at her and Daughter J on their first day and says “go back to the counselor’s office. I don’t want you in my class you can’t do anything with a broken foot and since you don’t want to be here anyway you can go with her.” Daugher A was trying to help Daughter J carry her stuff. She had been on her foot all day and was pushed and shoved up and down steps with the rude students. My daughters were also told the gym teacher made the student who had a broken back last year run because he forgot his note. That is serious. My daughter did forget hers and I am so thankful they were sent to the counselor’s office because if she was made to run there would be a lawsuit and the school shut down.
Not being able to take Driver’s Ed was all a huge let down.
They were also called ho’s, bitches, and sluts throughout the day. They were treated horribly by the majority of the student population. Daughter J says one girl blurted out she lost her voice because she sucked so much D. The students called the teachers the N word and were constantly causing chaos. Where there is no order, chaos abounds. I was feeling so down about my kids because home school didn’t align with public and it’s not supposed to. My kids volunteer weekly, respect elders, read on their own, and have desires to become better than themselves every day. The kids told Daugher J and Daughter A they were too smart for this school and had more potential than majority of the students. They themselves want to leave Design Lab but can’t because the standards are so low they would be placed in a lower level class.
During the gym hour last period they were sent back to the counselor’s office to pick a new class because they were made aware they were not wanted in gym. While they are sitting there figuring out where they could be put, and the only option was Forensic Science, which neither of them wanted, they hear a student pouring her heart out to the younger gentleman, Mr. Sherodd. She tells him that she is having some thoughts but wasn’t going to act on them but she was depressed and needed help. He tells her he is not a counselor but that is how we were all introduced to him. He said here is a list of therapists. The student was still talking while he answers the phone and walks out the room. The student comes over, tells the girls that the school doesn’t ever read their emails, her dad had a stroke a previous year and no one even knew nor were concerned. She isn’t leaving because it’s her senior year. When he comes back from his phone call, he sits down and looks at her and says why aren’t you back in class? She responds you didn’t really help or tell me what to do next. He responds I thought you were just going to talk to the student and she said what about these thoughts… should I receive medication, talk to my mom or get a therapist? He says I am not qualified to tell you whether or not you need medicine but I have the list of therapists you can talk to. She then stands up while he is talking to Mr. Burke and starts to walk back to class and says so once I start therapy will we be able to talk weekly and he says I am not a counselor and I don’t do weekly meetings. The student was clearly distraught and going off about Mr. Reek and how he doesn’t teach and they need to hire better people. Mr. Sherodd tells her to go to the office to complain about the teacher. Right before she leaves she says he just pointed me to the office. My girls were heartbroken for her especially after hearing about the shooting in Florida. This kid is begging for help and no one is helping her. People should drop what they are doing and help this girl out.
Daughter A also met with the Ashley Bystricki during the day and she didn’t say much whatsoever and nodded repeatedly and when discussing leaving two minutes before class she said that was fine but none of her teachers were made aware.
Mr. Spangler didn’t even acknowledge Daughter J in her math class. The aide gave her a worksheet that Daughter J had previously done the year prior. They put her in IMP3 which she was the only sophomore and the aide asked Daughter J where she was and she said Algebra II and he said these kids are nowhere near Algebra II.
The only teacher they did like was Ms. Marvel.
The Spanish I teacher, for Daughter A, which was her last day, couldn’t get this one kid to settle, wound up slamming a metal yardstick to the desk scaring everyone and tried to use a pressure point technique on a kid and he just laughed at her. Daughter A mouthed to her she was so sorry she was being treated like this and came over and offered help to Daughter A. She was so thankful to be leaving for another school.
Ultimately, the teachers and the students don’t like being there and made it very well known. There was no follow through on simple, standard requests. There isn’t even an acting principal. This environment is not conducive to learning.
This is probably why the school isn’t meeting enrollment and need to request a lower percentage through the DOE.
My kids are accomplishing way more at home with their curriculum, servicing the community, and their faith. I truly believe homeschooling is the best option especially when this is what goes on in what is supposed to be a professional school setting.
I am reporting the school to the charter board and sending an email to a blogger who holds charter schools accountable. I also shared it with everyone who wants to hear. There needs to be better options than public. This should have been the answer not equal to what the public is. Most kids said that Design Lab is worse than their feeder Glasgow which isn’t an option either.
Thank you and God Bless,
These kind of issues are going on in many of our public schools in Delaware. For parents and students like this, public schools have become a living nightmare. I recently had a discussion with someone about how public education turned into this, especially in high-needs schools. When did students rule the roost? When did some adults become almost numb and uncaring? I am not saying this is all of our schools. But it is one too many. I’ve been in schools that do not have these issues. But I’ve been in others that do. It is not a charter school problem, it is a Delaware problem. Perhaps I am “old school”, but this kind of conduct in our schools is unacceptable. When there is no authority in schools, students will do whatever they want. Is it the fault of the students in these situations or the administration? Or both?
During my recent conversation mentioned above, I explained that education has turned into a business enterprise. Despite many saying they represent students, that is not always the reality. I’ve learned to know the difference. For far too many, it is about the money involved first and students last. It isn’t the teachers (in most cases), it is the administrators and boards that are responsible for making sure our schools are student first. In this situation with Delaware Design-Lab, it is obvious, based on this experience, there are serious issues with teacher recruitment. The environment at this school is NOT conducive to student learning. Based on the parent’s email, she also had issues in the Christina School District at Glasgow High School. For any parent to have to run from public education like this is a true shame.
I won’t pretend to have the answers. I don’t know the solutions. I can grapple with these issues and write about them, and in my heart I can cry for students that go through bullying and horrible education experiences. I can write about situations like this. I ask myself every single day what will be the catalyst for things to truly change. While a ton of talk is going on about school safety, situations like this are the norm in far too many of our schools, whether they are traditional schools or charter schools. School safety is paramount but that also includes addressing situations like this.
When I received the email from this parent, I shook my head. I reached out to the parent again and she agreed I could publish it and added this:
The only good thing I could say about it is it was clean and nice looking. The kids shared with my girls that most of the time the classes are so full there isn’t a desk for them to sit at. The teachers are afraid to teach and from what I heard and could tell no acting Principal. The Open House is very enticing and we thought this was an answer to our prayers. Unfortunately not at all. The one catch that is really sad that most don’t know about that Christina District office told us was once you register for a Charter in Delaware you have to complete a full year grade in it to be able to switch back to a public. So this year wouldn’t have counted they would have had to complete 11th to switch back to a public. Their public being Glasgow is even worse. I don’t think parents know when they go to charter if they pull them out they have to go to private, parochial or home school like we are.
In my own opinion I see a lot more deciding to home school in the years to come. I don’t know if you write about public but Glasgow High was much worse than Design Lab. I was there two days trying to register and I cried leaving. It is so sad our youth have to endure this to get an education.
For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education. When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there. You will find out why shortly. I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode. The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself. Different names are thrown around in these emails. Going back and reading these is always fun! The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review. The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails. I wish I could have met Dave in person. I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me. I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it. Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons. That’s my business! Continue reading
Aside from the controversial Special Education Strategic Plan presentation and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security going under formal review, what else happened at the January State Board of Education meeting? This is what goes out to legislators and all those important education folks in the state!
January State Board Meeting Highlights
The State Board of Education held its Regular Monthly Board Meeting on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.
All materials and presentations from the meeting can be accessed on the online meeting platform posted within each month’s agenda as posted on our website (www.destateboarded.k12.de.us ).
- Here is a direct link to the agenda complete with links and attached documents related to presentations and other items before the Board: SBE Monthly Meeting Agenda
The audio recording from the meeting is now posted on the State Board website. An index of the recording with live links by section is copied below.
· Board President, Dr. Dennis Loftus, discussed his attendance at the Governor’s State of the State address earlier in the day and provided a recap of the key points involving education. The Executive Director presented her report which included discussion of the latest publication by NASBE which focuses on Early Learning. A link to the publication as well as a few other articles regarding accountability plans across all 50 states according to ESSA plans and an interesting approach to chronic absenteeism. Her posted report called “News Updates and Information” is provided monthly. There will soon be a link added to the home page for easier access to these reports and local and national articles related to education issues which are provided for review by the Board and public. Ms. Johnson then updated the Board on the work related to the Literacy Campaign and highlighted the upcoming meetings for the steering committee and subcommittees of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.
· Secretary Bunting provided a comprehensive report to the Board which included details about several school visits and opportunities to engage with members of the business community and other policy leaders, meetings with school administrators, educators, and students in which she had been involved throughout the month. These visits included meeting with the School District Consolidation Task Force Academic and Student Needs Committee where they discussed the state’s EL Strategic Plan. She also had the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievement of 4 schools for Continued Excellence and identified 15 as Recognition Schools. Recognition Schools receive a banner to display in their school as well as $8,000 to further advance learning at their schools. She highlighted her involvement at the P-20 Council, Governor’s Cabinet meeting, Family Service Council, and the G.E.A.R meeting.
· The Board received a presentation from the 2018 DE State Teacher of the Year, Virginia Forcucci. Following her presentation and discussion with the Board they honored her with the SBE Award of Excellence.
· The Board received a presentation on the Special Education Strategic Plan from the co-chairs of the Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council, Dr. Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle. Board members discussed the development of the plan and asked questions regarding the goals and metrics within the plan. Additional information and resources from the presentation were provided on the agenda page for this item.
· Department Regulations
o Regulation 925: Children with Disabilities Subpart D, Evaluations, Eligibility Determination, Individualized Education Programs was presented for final action. There was discussion regarding the comments received from the GACEC and Statewide Disabilities Council as well as the fact that this change was only addressing one aspect of the regulation to align with federal requirements. The Board was informed that a broader group of stakeholders are currently working on revisions to further update the rest of the regulation and that this regulation may be before them again with more comprehensive changes in the near future. A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mrs. Rutt and seconded by Dr. Whittaker. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).
o Regulation 501: State Content standards was presented for final action. The amendments included the addition of statewide K-12 Financial Literacy and Computer Science standards. The public comment received as well as feedback received through the community engagement sessions held by the Department was shared with the Board. There was discussion regarding the date in regulation for adoption and how that was different from the full implementation date of these standards to be integrated and aligned with curriculum. It was explained that the date in regulation is the date that the standards would officially become the state content standards and that the implementation of those standards into professional development for teachers and integrated and aligned with curriculum would follow a similar timeline trajectory has was used for the Next Generation Science standards. A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mr. Heffernan and seconded by Mrs. Rutt. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).
o Following the approval of Regulation 501, the Board took a moment to thank Mr. Michael Watson, Chief Academic Officer, for his many contributions to improving education for children in the state of Delaware. It had been announced the prior month that this would be his final State Board meeting before leaving the department. The Board recognized him for his service and awarded him the State Board’s Award of Excellence.
o Regulation 1008 DIAA Junior High and Middle School Interscholastic Athletics and Regulation 1009 DIAA High School Interscholastic Athletics were presented to the Board for discussion. These regulations are out for comment during the month of January and will be back before the Board in February for final action. The DIAA Executive Director and legal counsel addressed questions from the Board members regarding the proposed changes which dealt with Officials organizations and Foreign Exchange and International Students’ eligibility.
· The Board received public comment from two individuals commending them on the decision to approve regulation 501 and adopt statewide Computer Science standards for Delaware.
· John Carwell, from the Charter School Office, presented the Department’s request to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.
o At the December 18, 2014 meeting of the State Board of Education, the charter for DAPSS was renewed with the following conditions:
§ 1. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Academic Framework for the 2014-15 school year; and
§ 2. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Financial Framework for the 2014-15 school year.
o In SY 2014/2015 Delaware implemented a new system of accountability known as the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) and was permitted by the U.S. Department of Education to use this school year as the year from which to measure academic achievement and progress. Due to this waiver, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.
o In SY 2015/2016, Delaware changed the academic assessment for high schools from Smarter Balanced to SAT. Due to this change in academic assessment, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.
o In SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet academic standards in three of the four DSSF metrics and showed a decline in both academic achievement and academic growth.
o As for financial standards, in SY 2014/2015, SY 2015/2016, and SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet financial standards.
o In 2015-2016, DAPSS was approved for a modification to decrease enrollment. Despite this decrease, the school did not meet the 80% requirement for enrollment by May 1st for SY 2017-2018 enrolling only 77% of its projected population. As of September 30, 2017, DAPSS enrolled 228 of their projected 340 students or 67% of their approved enrollment. Since September 30, 2017, DAPSS’s enrollment has again declined. The school currently has 217 students enrolled.
o This is the third year that the school has shown a decline in enrollment going from 303 students in SY 2015/2016 to 217 students SY2017/2018. With a 2018 graduating class of 47 students, 49 choice applications, and one withdrawal at the time of this report, it is doubtful that DAPSS will meet the Financial Framework standard this school year.
o After considering these potential violations of its charter, the Department as approving authority, has determined that DAPSS should be submitted to formal review to determine whether the school is violating its charter and whether there are grounds for remedial measures. The Department is seeking the assent of the Secretary and the State Board for this action.
· The Secretary of Education following this outline of performance and concerns regarding the compliance with their charter stated, “Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security appears to have failed to meet the conditions of its charter renewal and should have the opportunity for a rigorous review of the school performance. Therefore, as Secretary of Education, I assent to placing Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review. In accordance with 14 Delaware Code Section 511(c), I seek the assent of the State Board of Education to the decision to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.”
· Dr. Loftus asked for a motion to assent to the formal review of the charter for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security. The motion was made by Mrs. Sorenson and seconded by Mr. Heffernan. After discussion of the Board which involved discussing the process that is included during formal review the motion passed unanimously by voice vote.
· The charter office also provided in its monthly update, which was posted on the SBE website for information a timeline for the review of the new application received to open a new charter school in Sussex county called Sussex Montessori as well as the major modification requested for Design Lab HS. The links to all of these were provided in the agenda item online.
· The Professional Standards Board had no items to bring before the SBE this month since their January meeting was cancelled due to snow.
· The Board had no one signed up for general public comment
· The Board received an update from its Deputy Attorney General regarding two appeal requests that have had their hearing and are currently in the time window in which either party is able to submit responses to the hearing officer’s recommendation. Both of those appeals will come before the Board for action at the February meeting.
The next regular monthly meeting of the State Board is scheduled for
Thursday, February 15, 2018
The meeting will begin at 4:00 p.m. and the Board will enter Executive Session to discuss two disciplinary appeals and then will return to general session at 5:00pm
January 18, 2018 – Delaware State Board of Education Audio Recordings
Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously put Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security on formal review for academic and financial reasons. The 6-0 vote puts the New Castle charter school through a two-month review period where they have to meet with the Charter School Accountability Committee and go through public hearings. The placement of a charter school to formal review status does not mean they are being shut down. Putting a school under formal review is the process. Any decision to leave a school open or shut it down takes place after a formal review and the findings that come out of that.
I knew their enrollment was low but that isn’t the only reason they went under the formal review knife. Academics played a big part. This is always tough for me to support because I loathe the use of standardized testing in punishing any school. With DAPSS, they went from Smarter Balanced to the SAT in a two-year period. In 2015, the SAT was remade to include Common Core.
Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will make her recommendation to the State Board of Education at their March 15th meeting and then the State Board votes on that recommendation. The letter from Secretary Bunting notifying the school of their formal review status, the timeline, and their performance matrices for each category are included below.
Either the Charter School Office was ready for the State Board to vote for the formal review or they are able to predict the future, because the below PDF was created at 1pm yesterday, four hours before the State Board of Education began their meeting! I would have to say the school’s founder, Charlie Copeland, is not happy about this!
Last night at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, five Delaware charter schools received unanimous approval from board members. Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, and Sussex Academy were approved with no conditions. For Thomas Edison Charter School, that was a different story. And for another, the State Board did not get a complete record. Continue reading
Last Spring, a bunch of teachers and staff at Providence Creek Academy assembled to voice concerns about working conditions at Providence Creek Academy. They had some definite beefs with the way things were run, especially with the Principal and the Head of School. Ultimately, they brought their concerns to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. While the DOE was unable to substantiate their claims, they initiated an important question: should charter school teachers be unionized?
Over Labor Day, they contacted me indicating they had enough votes to be able to join the Delaware State Education Association. Last month, they emailed me they no longer had those votes. But I always saluted their courage and bravery in their attempt. They never contacted me individually, always as a group. To this day, I could not tell you one member of the group. They had a very legitimate fear that if they did announce their names they would have been terminated from the school. I can’t blame them one bit for feeling that way. Delaware is an at will state and without union representation, charter school teachers can be terminated for pretty much any reason. Whether it is justified or not. And speaking up about a hostile working environment can be very dangerous. I truly wish we lived in a world where any teacher could use their voice without that fear, but that is not the world we live in unfortunately.
At the very least, I hope some of those situations at Providence Creek Academy did change for the teachers and staff. Whether it is one voice or half their staff, no one should have to live with fear is as their top concern.
What? Who in the world is Herbert Sheldon? Who is the Board? While you may not know this name right now unless you are very involved in Delaware education, you soon will. Why? Continue reading
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?
This is exactly why I don’t trust the Delaware Department of Education. Taking a nod from the Christina School District settlement with 15 charter schools last year, the Department has decided to let charters get match tax funds in a phased-out plan for district exclusions. Continue reading
The revolt at Providence Creek Academy is about to blow wide open. And at the epicenter of this is Head of School, Chuck Taylor.
Tomorrow night, Providence Creek Academy is holding their July Board of Directors meeting. I have no doubt one of the biggest items of discussion in their Executive Session will be how to handle the growing and mounting concerns of nearly half of their teachers and staff. These employees of the Clayton, DE charter school are not happy. Going by an anonymous group called “We’re Worried”, I’ve been in contact with this group for a month and a half. I went so far as to contact Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting about their concerns. I did so in the bounds of confidentiality and I did not name the school or the Head of School in the conversation. Dr. Bunting stressed that if there is a hostile work environment, the Delaware DOE needs to know immediately so they can take immediate action. Continue reading
Five Delaware charter schools will go through their charter renewal process next Fall. The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office had what I am sure was a huge task of sending out reports to the schools. Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal. With any charter school renewal, the DOE goes through everything: Academics, Financial, and Organizational. No stone is left unturned. With five charters and all three Delaware counties represented in these renewals, the public hearings will be everywhere. But it looks like the Charter School Office has planned ahead and scheduled different public hearings on different days. Last year, there was only one charter school (Academy of Dover) that went through the renewal process. There would have been two but Prestige Academy opted to close their doors at the end of this school year.
In reviewing the below renewal reports and the charter schools responses to those reports, I didn’t have any alarm bells going off. I do have concerns about the demographics of two of these schools, First State Montessori Academy and Sussex Academy. At least one of these schools has some financial issues that seem to have flown under the radar for a long time now. Hopefully more will come out during this process. And one of them, I strongly suspect but can’t prove…yet, has a secret going all the way back to the origin of their school…
Here are all the schools renewal reports from the Charter School Office, their responses, and the timeline issued by the Charter School Office for this mammoth process:
Academia Antonia Alonso:
Early College High School
First State Montessori Academy
Thomas Edison Charter School
Charter School Renewal Timeline:
The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School. For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River. By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods. Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.
Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement. The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation. They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank. If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.
I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out. Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013. Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education. But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support. Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year (2018) and 450 students by 2023.
Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago. There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists. With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class. It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source. Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.
A few weeks ago, I put up an article about Prestige Academy folding into EastSide Charter School’s mini-empire. I received this information from someone who has always been a very reliable source of information. This person earned their stripes. Since then, I have heard nothing on this. Not one peep. Today, at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, the Charter School Office will give their monthly charter school update. According to this update, Prestige Academy will still close this year. At the beginning of October, I broke the news that Prestige’s Board of Directors wrote a letter to the Delaware Dept. of Education which stated they would not pursue the renewal of their charter and would close at the end of this school year.
So what happened? Got me! Many things could have happened: the original plan of the school closing (which looks reasonable at this point) will go through, my source got really bad information, or this merger with EastSide could still go through but they are holding their cards at this point in time. EastSide swooped in at the last-minute and probably saved Family Foundations Academy from closing down at the beginning of 2015. When it comes to Delaware charter schools and the Delaware DOE, you never know what deals are cooking behind closed doors. I welcome any confirmation on what could be going on here or if, indeed, my source got bad information. Like I said, this source is very reliable.
This will be short and sweet, but the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee voted on Monday to recommend the Academy of Dover for charter renewal with no conditions. The committee, created through the Delaware Dept. of Education Charter School Office, will issue their final report next week. In December, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will make his recommendation to the State Board of Education at their monthly meeting. The State Board will then have a vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.
One major thing that came up at their initial committee meeting last month was their enrollment. It dipped this year and has been on that trend. The committee advised Academy of Dover that if this trend continues they could face major obstacles in the future which could put them in a very precarious financial position. Charter schools in Delaware are required to be at 80% of their approved enrollment by April 1st before the next school year. If they don’t, they go on formal review. This will be something Academy of Dover will have to deal with going forward until they get their numbers back up.
I think the closure of any school is a very serious decision and if it has to happen, it better be for some damn good reasons. Academy of Dover is not anywhere close to that level. I will do a follow-up on this when the report comes out next week.
Denise Stouffer joined the Charter School Office at the Delaware Dept. of Education last April. but as of the past couple of weeks she became the Director of the Charter School Office. She rose through the ranks to replace Jennifer Nagourney, who left the Delaware DOE on July 1st to join the New York City Dept. of Education. But she had been working with the Delaware DOE for two years before that as a contractor with a title of “Data Governance Contractor”. In 2010, she created a company called BHS Educational Services based out of Pennsylvania. BHS specializes in helping individuals to create charter schools and professional development training. Stouffer also helped out the DOE during their contract with Wireless Generation as a consultant that trained people on professional development and data driven instructional practices. All this information is based on Stouffer’s LinkedIn account. While her new title does not appear on that account, it was referenced in the Charter School Office presentation to the Delaware State Board of Education at their retreat earlier this week.
I have seen Denise Stouffer at meetings the past few weeks, whether at the State Board of Education or Every Student Succeeds Act meetings. I was wondering who she was… now I know! I had a decent relationship with Jennifer Nagourney and I hope the same can be said for Denise Stouffer. I’m a pain in the ass at times. But as I’ve always told folks at the DOE and written on here more times than I can count, if I’m barking up the wrong tree, let me know! In any event, congratulations Denise! You have big shoes to fill!