Odyssey Charter School Becomes 2nd Delaware Charter This Year To Join DSEA

Odyssey Charter School teachers and staff voted and an overwhelming majority decided to join the Delaware State Education Association.  This is the second charter school in Delaware to do so in 2018.  Last Spring, the Charter School of Wilmington also voted to join DSEA.  In 1997, Positive Outcomes joined DSEA but opted out in 2000.  Delaware College Prep joined in 2012 but closed a few years later due to low enrollment.

With 131 for and 16 against, over 89% of the educators in the school decided a teachers union was the best option for them.  Prior to 2018, it was virtually unheard of for Delaware charters to unionize.  What turned the tide?

For Odyssey, the decision was clear- they did not like decisions the board was making and felt their voices were not being heard.  When former leader Nick Manolakos did not have his contract renewed, the school hired two to take his place.  But the tipping point was when their former Board President, who had just resigned, became a leading contender for a third highly paid administrator.

Over the summer this led to those teachers and parents questioning the board about decisions that would affect the school.  Parents saw fundraiser after fundraiser to get more money for the school but didn’t feel the money was going towards what the school promised.  But they had money for all these administrators.

Congratulations to Odyssey Charter School for joining DSEA.  With two joining this year, will more Delaware charters follow?  Even with forces joining together to muffle DSEA it has become more apparent than ever that teachers want respect and to have their voice heard.  They are the second most important part of a school after the students.  They have rights and deserve to organize and fight for what is theirs.  They deserve due process and the right to air grievances.

17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: The Providence Creek “We’re Worried” Crew

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.

Time For Delaware Charter School Teachers To Form A Union!

Currently, no Delaware charter school teachers belong to any organized teacher unions.  As a result, the charter school leaders are able to do whatever they want with teachers and due process is a bit of a  joke.  This could all change if charter school teachers join the union.  I have seen many a charter school teacher fired for no reason other than they disagree with something a charter leader says.  Boom! Just like that!

Last night, Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews posted the following on Facebook:

Fascinating story of the day: In our Know Your Contract training today, the always wonderful Laura Rowe provided the attached state law regarding sick leave. We had some good discussion on this topic.

Totally UNRELATED to this morning’s training, I received three messages from charter school teachers who told me that they were told that they can take no more than seven sick days per year and that “the charter trumps state law.” From THREE different sources with the SAME story.

Wanna know their names?  No way.  My lips are sealed.  You see why charter school teachers deserve some due process protections by the union? Constant. State. Of. Fear.

My suggestion to those charter teachers? Your school is breaking the law. Your fellow teachers must band together and take a stand. Solidarity. Strength in numbers. Let’s start organizing now. My number is 302-547-4774.

And any of you charter school leaders reading this who THINK you know who talks to me and you want to try and intimidate them? Think again. Ever since those two op-eds I wrote in The News Journal were published last year, teachers at a dozen charter schools have been regularly coming to me sharing horror stories just like this.

And he posted the following pictures:

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When are charter school leaders and boards going to realize they don’t rule the universe?  Just because you have a charter doesn’t mean you are immune to state laws and regulations.  Charter school teachers deserve the same protection as regular traditional school district teachers.  I don’t care what my stance is on charter schools in general, teachers are teachers no matter where you teach.  What say you Delaware?  Is this something you can get behind?  I would love to hear from charter school teachers on this as well, and despite my post last week about a certain employee in the Townsend building, all communications or comments on this blog are confidential unless you play games with me over a long period of time!

Governor Markell’s Staff Gives Clarity on Market Street Village-Charter School Teacher Controversy

Governor Markell’s staff has responded with a very good explanation of the true meaning behind both the New York Times and the News Journal’s articles on Market Street Village and the discounts offered to certain populations.  I’m not sure where the disconnect was with both the articles, but this is the official word!

The Market Street Village project is not limited to charter school teachers.  Anyone who fits within the income limitations can live there, including other teachers who meet the income guidelines.  What was reported in the paper reflected the marketing effort related to the project.  

DSHA is financing part the project, as it routinely does for developers of low-income housing projects statewide.  Financing consists of a tax-exempt loan through DSHA to the developer, at market rate and funded by a commercial bank. 

Also, DSHA qualified the project to receive federal tax credits (which are paid by the federal government, but managed by DSHA).  As a condition of this federal tax credit funding, the developer will be required to rent to residents who meet certain income requirements, regardless of their profession.  For example, 5 of the units in the Market Street Village complex will need to be rented to people earning up to approximately $22,000 annually.  58 of the units will need to be rented to people earning as much as approximately $38,000 per year.  The remaining 13 units will be available to persons earning around $45,000 annually.  

In order to show demand for the project, it was important to highlight the new teachers who will be working within walking distance of the Market Street Village. 

However, while the developer may be targeting its marketing to the new employees at the Community Education Building, the program rules do not allow for the units to be marketed or dedicated solely to charter school teachers, or any other specific job class. (bolded for emphasis)

The article suggests that the project is also getting Downtown Development District funding.  To be sure, the project is in the Wilmington district and is the kind of project that the program was designed to incentivize.  But the DDD funding will be distributed pursuant to an application process and none of that has happened yet. 

Whatever happened behind the scenes on this, it appears that going forward this is the real deal.  Like I said, I’m not sure how two major newspapers could have gotten that very specific information, but it is not the case as per the Governor’s office.

Charter School Teachers Getting Preferential Treatment at Market Street Village, Discrimination Against Public School Teachers

In the Delaware News Journal today one of the articles was about luxury apartments in development for the new “millennials” to spice up the downtown district in Wilmington.  The article announced the 77 unit Market Street Village will give “below-market rates” to charter school teachers.  Jeff Mordock with the News Journal wrote:

“One of the projects, Market Street Village, will include 77 residential units that will be offered to charter school teachers at below-market rates.  Hare said tax credits and funding from the state’s Downtown Development District programs will help the units be priced at a discount.”

This was Governor Markell’s big announcement right before his State of the State address a couple weeks ago.  Locations were chosen in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford.  Markell, why don’t you just come out with a press release that says “I hate public school district teachers, and I will not rest until they are wiped off the map in Delaware.”  This is discrimination, pure and simple.  I suppose there aren’t any Millennials among the very large teacher pool in the local public school districts?  Or is this indicative of something bigger?  Because the New York Times also had an article about this on February 5th, but they said something a little bit different.  NY Times reporter Mark Makela wrote:

“The former bank building is part of the Market Street Village development that will create 77 residential units at three locations for the city’s growing number of charter school teachers, who will be offered the apartments at below-market rates.”

In the 2015-2016 school year there will be a total of six new charter schools in Delaware, five of which will be in New Castle County.  Two are already scheduled to open within Wilmington.  But on the other hand, two established charter schools will close, Reach Academy for Girls and Moyer.  So that’s 1,290 approved seats for the five new charter schools, and based on the DOE school profiles website, 573 students currently enrolled this year (I didn’t count the 12 seniors at Moyer) will be forced to find a new school next year.  So this will create a huge amount of available teachers.  What it won’t do is put the local school districts in a good position.  Already under the knife’s edge with the priority schools, more local funding will be taken out of these school districts.  This is assuming all these new charters fill all their seats.

While the fate of the priority schools is in your hands with Christina School District, or your lapdog Murphy, we all know most of these teachers will be forced to reapply for their jobs.  Do you honestly think they would accept being terminated and then taking a job at a charter school?  So where will all these new teachers come from?  Perhaps Teach For America or Relay Graduate School?  Younger people, perfect for your little downtown agenda.

It’s bad enough with all the Common Core, standardized testing and teacher evaluations, but now Markell has to push the knife in the back even deeper by allowing this 21st century discrimination by excluding public school district teachers out of a major state “revitalization” project.  He isn’t even trying to hide it anymore..  I’m sure you figure “I’ve got two years left, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please.”  Why anyone in this state would think Markell is an honorable man is beyond me.  His obsession with Rodel and all the little side deals he made has turned Delaware education into a disgrace.  It was one thing when he kept his obvious disdain of public school district education in the schools and the education landscape.  Now he has crossed a very big line into actual incentives for some he feels are “worthy” and nothing for those that are not.  I thought a Governor was supposed to be a voice for all people Governor Markell, but it’s obvious you are only there for some.

Now I understand why you have not said one word about the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  You would be a hypocrite.  Equity for all aren’t even words in your vocabulary.