All Hell Broke Loose Today At Delaware State Board of Education Meeting

The Delaware State Board of Education meeting today didn’t have anything major on it’s agenda.  An overview of the Smarter Balanced Assessment administration survey was the big highlight.  Unfortunately, I left very early.  Right before the meeting began, I received THE call.  The Governor Markell vetoed House Bill 50 call.  I got a story up just in the nick of time for me to give public comment to Mark Murphy and the gang.  I gave my public comment about special education and the DOE screwing me over so bad on a FOIA I had to file a complaint with the DOJ who ruled the DOE overcharged on the FOIA five times higher than they should have.  An Academy of Dover parent who has a child with special needs gave public comment about how AoD failed to give her child an IEP and how a teacher abused her child.  Mike Matthews then gave public comment about how the DOE was screwing over Red Clay with priority schools funding.  That was just the beginning of the meeting.

At this point, board members Heffernan, Gray and Melendez commented on Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  They all gave the same tired old excuses about how they need the data, and blah blah blah.  At this point in time they were going over the legislative update for the last six months.  Mark Murphy starts talking about the assessment inventory bill, Senate Joint Resolution #2 which Markell did sign today.  I got up, gathered my stuff, and yelled “It’s never been about the other assessments, it’s always been about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  You people are a joke.”  And I walked out and didn’t look back.  I will no longer go to the chest-thumping meetings where idiots use words like rigor and robust again.  I can’t.  My stomach can’t take the nausea I feel.

I will now rely on Mike Matthew’s Facebook posts on the rest of the meeting:

Here at the State Board of Ed meeting and I’m disgusted to hear so many members praising Gov. Markell’s veto of opt out.

Department of Education just gave a presentation on this survey that teachers received last month. Click the link. Some of you, particularly RCEA members, will remember this.

At the State Board meeting just now, Sec. Murphy’s team presented on the results of the survey. They did NOT include any of the typed comments that I know many of the teachers in my district gave.

Very disappointed. I’ve requested the release of this information and have copied the leadership of the House and Senate Education Committees.

DOE reports Smarter Balanced data won’t be available until “early fall.” Fall starts Sept. 20, right? So how will this help teachers?

Newark Charter School awarded $250,000 to build a STEM lab.

Christina School District lays off 100+ teachers.

I’ve had enough. Time to leave this State Board meeting. When they start talking about giving “need-based” awards to charter schools who have no real need because they pick and choose who can enter their school, then there’s really not much I can say. I’ll be back next month!

The difference between Mike and I is that I will not be back next month.  If I absolutely have to hear it, I’ll wait until they put the audio up a few days after.  But this unelected and clueless state board of education is worthless, as well as the DOE they support.  I told them in my public comment I don’t hate them and in an alternate reality Mark Murphy and I could be bowling buddies (not a reality I would want to live in).  But I told them their mission statement is out of synch with reality.  Never has that been more true than today.  I turn my back on them just like they have done with all of Delaware parents.  And our Governor as well.  But trust me, they WILL hear us.  They will not be hearing about opt-out, because it is now REFUSE THE TEST!

The 2015 Charter School Performance Award Winners: Who Won Big, Who Won Some, & Who Got The Shaft

Has the Delaware DOE announced the winners for the Charter School Performance Award by default, on their very own website? In the section on their website for applicants of the Charter School Performance Award, their is a clear list of how much each school received from their application and what they can do with the funds.  Since the state budget only allotted $1 million as opposed to the $1.5 originally requested, this list could have been more extensive.  They did say they would announce the winners today!  Each school listed provides the link to my articles on each school’s application as well as my take and opinion about what they asked for.

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: $250,000, requested $250,000, no restrictions on special education inclusion model

Newark Charter School: $250,000, requested $400,000, can only use for STEM Laboratory

Campus Community School: $50,000, requested $250,000, can only use for school library project

The Delaware MET: $175,000, requested $250,000, can only use for school start-up costs, not for marketing or promotion or student recruitment

Delaware STEM Academy: $175,000, requested $250,000, same as above

First State Military Academy: $50,000, requested $250,000, same as above

Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall: $50,000, requested $250,000, same as above

Applicants that were eligible but didn’t receive any funds: Early College High School and Great Oaks Charter School (both requested $250,000)

The only applicant that wasn’t eligible at all was Odyssey Charter School due to their probation status during the 2014-2015 academic year.

To read the full list on the DOE Website, go here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/Page/2266

Sussex Academy Gets A Pool Donated By Board Member’s Two Sons & Their Real Estate Company

A couple weeks ago, I was hanging out at Legislative Hall with some folks, and we were discussing how Sussex Academy, the only charter school in Sussex Academy, is having a pool built on their campus.  We were wondering how they could afford a pool.  That would have been a huge capital expense for a traditional school district, much less a charter school.  But then we found out the pool was donated by a company, so no hot story there.  Some company called Schell Brothers.

It fell off my radar as those kind of things do.  I was getting rid of some files on my computer, and I tend to bookmark all the charter school board minutes.  I saw the Sussex Academy minutes from April, and I wondered if there was any mention of the pool in there.  I didn’t see any.  I did see some notes about how they were going to charge students $10 to get a permit to park on campus.  When the school got the permit back, they would be refunded $5.00.  I thought that was odd but nothing huge.

Then I looked up at their board members, and a name popped out at me.  Joseph Schell.  I immediately put the names together…Joseph Schell…Schell Brothers.  Did a board member donate a pool to the school?  No.  His twin sons did, through their real estate company, Schell Brothers.  The company was funded through a trust named after Joseph Schell.

That’s really awesome!  The school gets a pool!  I have to wonder though, does the donation include the planned second floor balcony and the elevator to get to that second floor?  Does it include all the costs associated with the pool: water, electricity, maintenance, chlorine, insurance costs?  Or is that something the state will pay for?  I would be happy if Joseph Schell or anyone from the school can provide these answers.  It’s a Sunday evening as I write this, so I’m sure the school isn’t open.  The only mention of the pool in their board minutes comes in January 2015, when Joseph Schell announces “a local business will pay for an aquatic center which should be complete mid 2015 or early 2016.”  I would love to hear the recordings of all their board meetings to get more details, but alas, the school doesn’t do that.

Sussex Academy is receiving $60,703 as per Senate Bill 160, the bond bill.  The total for all charters is over $1.4 million dollars for minor capital improvements.  They are allotted the same portion as a vo-cational school district based on unit funds.  Apparently it doesn’t matter if the state owns the properties or not.  So add in the $1.4 million the charters got to keep from the charter school transportation slush fund, whereby they get to keep any excess transportation costs over their contracted bid amount from their budget for “educational purposes”.  Oh yeah, they also get $1 million this year for their performance award.  That’s, let me do some non-common core math here, $3.8 million dollars for charter schools.  And our budget was short how much this year before all the other cuts… $68 million?

Back to Sussex Academy.  Did the board vote on this donation?  Did Joseph Schell recuse himself from the vote due to a potential conflict of interest?  What if something pool related comes up for a vote?  Would the fact that a board member has very close blood relationships with the owners of the company that gave the pool to them have any potential for an issue?  I can’t imagine it would be a problem unless Joseph Schell is the head of the finance committee for the school.  Just because he speaks on all financial matters in their board minutes doesn’t mean he runs that show.

Sussex Academy received over $4.6 million in revenues as per their 2014 tax form 1099.  It did mention the Sussex Academy Foundation which donated over $1.4 million to the school in 2014.  This seems to be from donations.  Curiously, on their 990 form, in schedule E, they wrote “The Academy is fully supported through grants and funding from local school districts, and therefore does not solicit contributions from outside organizations.”  Well, that’s a relief!  I’m just glad they marked no for all the areas marked in Section 5 of schedule E, especially item B.  You know, the part about the organization discriminating by race in any way with respect to admissions policies.  I’m sure that whole ACLU complaint to the Office of Civil Rights matter against the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District, which mentions Sussex Academy as an example of discrimination and segregation, will clear itself up…

To get a look at all of the school’s board minutes and 990 tax forms, look no further than here, all on one page: https://saparents.team-logic.com/index.cfm?teamLogic=deptPages.view&groupID=215