I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years. I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things. I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed. But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before. How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension. Who is this person? Continue reading “Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!”
Aside from State Rep. Paul Baumbach, I have yet to hear from one person in support of this legislation. Zero. Zilch. Nada. But in the 24 hours or so since I posted this story, I have had many sidebar conversations with Baumbach, as well as many other crucial conversations. Continue reading “More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill”
Shirley Saffer withdrew as a candidate for the election of the Christina School District Board of Education seat today. This leaves it down to three: Jeff Day, Meredith Griffin Jr., and Kimara Smith. There will be no incumbent for the race since Saffer withdrew.
I’ve met both Day and Griffin before. Smith is a relative unknown. One of the candidates concerns me… A LOT! Continue reading “Christina Board Race Down To Three. Is There A Concern With One Of Them?”
I’ve written about Atnre Alleyne more than any other Delaware Dept. of Education employee (aside from Godowsky) in the past six months and he doesn’t even work there anymore! On Wednesday, Delaware Public Media released a letter Alleyne wrote to the Delaware DOE for input on the first draft of their Every Student Succeeds Act which should be out tomorrow. With a ton of other sponsors on the letter, including Rodel, Teach For America, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, and of course, TeenSHARP, an organization run by Alleyne and his wife. An organization he could potentially benefit from through ESSA grants. No conflict of interest there. But to make matters worse, he also sits on the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee.
Alleyne and the Delaware Corporate Education Reform Network (my new nickname for the above-mentioned companies) also rounded up every single civil rights group they could for this letter. The PACE Network, Christina Cultural Arts Center, the Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank, Aspira of Delaware, and oddly enough, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware. The same organization who submitted a Civil Rights complaint against the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District for authorizing charter schools that continue segregation in Delaware (22 months later and no word on that one).
To say Alleyne is making a move would be an understatement. This was the same person who did everything in his power to kill legislation on teacher evaluations. He pretty much got his wish when Senator David Sokola added his amendments to the bill. Why should anyone listen to what amounts to a benefactor of ESSA? Thanks to Delaware Public Media for putting this letter up on Scribd. While I agree with very few of the points of the letter, it is definitely a power grab by Alleyne. Alleyne is also an “education fellow” at 50CAN, just another one of those education think tanks that sprung up in the past decade with funding by the Gates Foundation and a gazillion other foundations that support charter schools. And one of the documents Alleyne brings up in his letter was something Alleyne was compensated for at the Delaware DOE. He worked in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit before he sprouted his wings to do… this kind of stuff.
I have no doubt the Delaware DOE gave this letter very serious consideration and will incorporate the thoughts of it in the plan. Kind of like how Senator Sokola took Alleyne’s charges with House Bill 399 very seriously. But they were in cahoots the whole time. This is Rodelaware you know…
Academy of Dover is up for charter renewal this fall. The Secretary of Education will announce his recommendation at the December State Board of Education meeting and then the State Board will vote on it. The school has a gigantic hurdle to overcome: their enrollment.
Today, the Charter School Accountability Committee released the report from their initial meeting with Academy of Dover on October 10th.
Mr. Blowman noted that the school’s enrollment has declined steadily over the years, from 308 students in school year 2013-14 to 247 students this school year.
That is a very serious drop! Their approved charter enrollment is 300 students. Charters can’t go below 80% of that, so their magic number is 240. How bad is it? To put things in perspective, they decreased their Kindergarten classes from 3 to 2 this year because of lower enrollment. That is their bread and butter for future growth.
Ms. Johnson stated that if the current 2016-17 enrollment is projected out based on the trends to date, the school would be at 46% enrollment in four years, well below the required 80%. She added that this trend is occurring at every grade level versus one particular cohort. She reiterated that the school must provide a strong plan to mitigate this year’s reduced kindergarten enrollment and the low year-to-year retention rates.
Teacher retention was also an issue, but Academy of Dover is not immune to this issue. Many charters and districts regularly suffer through this process each year.
This is my problem with charter school renewals. So much of it is based on standardized test scores. Far too much of it. I can’t sit here and mock charters about low test scores while demonizing them in traditional schools. This very huge flaw in education is universal. For any school to feel they have to create a “Smarter Balanced Boot Camp” to drive up scores shows exactly what is wrong with the system to begin with. This school already has a long day, from 7:45 to 3:30. By keeping struggling students until 5pm and factoring in transportation, that is half of a student’s day. Gone.
One thing I was very happy to see was a minor modification request submitted by Academy of Dover to reduce their number of school days from 200 to 180. Citing a lot of absenteeism of students the first two weeks of school and the last two weeks, the school said they are listening to parents. But of course the DOE has to pick that apart as well.
I believe the DOE needs to take a strong look at their Charter School Accountability Committee. The non-voting members, at least two of them, had a lot to say during this meeting. More than I’ve seen in a long time. But when one of the voting members could potentially stand to gain if the school shut down… that I have a huge problem with.
The next Charter School Accountability Committee meeting, where the committee will give their final recommendation, will occur in late November or early December. I think the school has come a long way since the Noel Rodriguez days. I think they realize what their major mistakes were and have attempted to take swift action. The addition of Gene Capers, a former Principal from Capital School District, as a curriculum director, was a stroke of genius. Cheri Marshall has come a long way. While she was thrust into a position of leadership based on another person’s wrong actions, she has grown in that role. I saw a confidence in her at the renewal meeting last week that I didn’t see during their formal review a year and a half ago. While this may seem to be too little too late for those who are no longer at the school, no human being can change the past but they can try to make a better future.
I gave this school a very hard time the past couple of years. So much of that surrounded a central theme: transparency. I think the combination of Rodriguez’ shenanigans, special education issues, and their start and stop time of the school year are playing a major part in their current enrollment woes. My recommendation: approve their minor modification and let them stay open. See what happens in the fall. If their enrollment falls below 80%, the DOE will be forced to follow the law. But give them a chance. We have had far too many charter schools close that serve minority and low-income populations the past few years. It is not good. They have to get special education right, but they are not the only school in this state struggling with that. We must, as a state, clearly define a better strategy for special education and make sure all schools are consistent with that path.
Newark Charter School Board President Stephen Dressel is claiming they joined the lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education, along with 14 other charter schools, and actually said “This is not a step we take lightly.” Yeah right! Dressel sent a letter to NCS parents and staff today about the suit. No doubt to rile them up more than they already are. I’m sure they will blast me on their new Facebook page, Parent Networking. Since NCS Parents had a few moles (guess what chumps, you still do). Greg Meece, Stephen Dressel and Joanne Schlossberg started this whole mess when Christina passed their referendum. They know exactly what they are doing here. Maybe that’s why they had their 16 minute board meeting in September so they could rush to executive session to talk about this. I have no doubt they were salivating at the opportunity. If anyone doesn’t see this for what it really is, they are fooling themselves.
Because of the lawsuit, any communication around this issue is probably not allowable by FOIA since it would be a part of litigation. But we all know who started this and why. Greg Meece. The “savior” of Delaware public education. It will be interesting to see how the Delaware DOE reacts to this. After all their boasts about NCS, look what they did. I have a feeling there is a lot more to this. All I know is the ESSA Student and School Supports Discussion Group in an hour and 15 minutes is going to be very interesting. How can this subject not come up?
Funny how NCS brings up taxpayer dollars when the whole district to charter funding formula by itself is flawed. NCS and the other charters are about to learn a very important lesson called “you don’t understand district funding”. And how does this work when Donald Patton, who sits on the board of Las Americas ASPIRAS, is also an administrator in the Christina School District? Isn’t that a HUGE conflict of interest?
This is the heart of what is wrong with Delaware. In an article by Bike Delaware, the group brags about how the General Assembly approved $20.7 million for bike trail improvements in Delaware. Meanwhile, students considered to be basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, go for a sixth year without special education funding from the state. Pork indeed! Now before bicycling enthusiasts come at me, I fully support bicycle safety and awareness. While I don’t ride a bicycle these days, I think it is important for further safety for the sport. But not at the expense of children in public schools! And we can say this is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget. But money shifts around ALL the time at Legislative Hall.
We are especially grateful for the leadership of State Senator Dave Sokola, the co-chair of the committee that wrote the capital budget, and Governor Jack Markell. It’s not a coincidence that Senator Sokola biked to work yesterday (about 60 miles) and Governor Markell biked to work today (also about 60 miles).
I have no doubt it isn’t a coincidence! And by mentioning how Sokola is the co-chair of the committee that writes the capital budget, you might as well throw out the words “conflict of interest”. Are we really saying, as a state, that despite all the arguments about education funding and how we will “commit to doing better next year” that our General Assembly approved $20.7 million in taxpayer funds for what amounts to a select special interest for a hobby? But the legislators who question this kind of nonsense are considered “unpatriotic” by people like State Rep. Melanie Smith…
This is a disgrace. How much longer will high-needs students continue to go without while fat-cats like Senator David Sokola and Governor Jack Markell can bike to Legislative Hall? While I was not always supportive of the WEIC plan, I think that was much more worthy than bike trails. We have schools that desperately need restoration and improvements, but paths for cyclists are more important? What the hell is wrong with this state and when will our legislators finally step up and say no as a collective body to this insanity? We have homeless people, increasing violence in our cities, and jobs that don’t pay as much as they used to. We have police that aren’t getting the funds they need to effectively do their jobs. But this is okay?
House Bill 30 would have guaranteed funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade with the designation of basic special education. Based on a unit-count system, these children get no state funding in these grades. It is one of the most transparent and visible flaws in Delaware education funding. But I suppose it is okay to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable of children so people like Jack Markell and David Sokola, whose very agendas and laws have further demeaned these children multiple times, can get more out of their bicycle hobby. What a joke!
What kind of Governor bikes sixty miles to work? What if something happens to him? Is that in the best interest of the state to have your Governor biking to work on a hot day? Do his bodyguards have to bike with him? Do they get extra duty hazard pay for that? Since we don’t have a Lieutenant Governor and something happened to Jack while bike-riding, who steps up then? Schwartzkopf? Good lord!
I can think of many different ways we could have allocated these funds in a “tough budget year”. The Delaware Joint Finance Committee and the folks on the Bond Committee need to open their eyes and see what they are doing to this state. Meanwhile, cyclists across the state rejoice! While students suffer…
Updated, 7/5/16, 2:35pm: On Bike Delaware’s Facebook page, the group responded to comments made on there about this article with the following:
80% of this money comes from the federal government for transportation system (capital) investments. The federal government does not permit this money to be spent on schools (or anything not related to transportation). It’s deeply unfair to criticize Governor Markell and Senator Sokola for failing to spend these federal transportation dollars on schools. Neither Governor Markell or Senator Sokola have any authority to re-program this money this way. (They can spend it on walking and cycling projects rather than new roads but they can’t spend it on schools or libraries or hospitals or anything not related to transportation.)
To which I responded:
Be that as it may, it is just more pork. Even more distressing this comes at a federal level when IDEA Special Education funding at a federal level is at 37.5% of what it should be when the law was reauthorized in 2004. While that has absolutely nothing to do with Bike Delaware, it is symptomatic of a disease in our country where those who already have so much more than others get more while those who don’t have those luxuries lose out. I’m pretty sure an argument could be made somewhere that Delaware’s transportation grants from the Feds could be used to get rid of the Neighborhood Schools Act which has further segregated our schools, especially in Wilmington. Funding is twisted all the time in our state, this should not be an exception. Once again, though, I do want to reiterate this is not a slam against those who enjoy biking, but rather what I consider to be a misuse of funds during a time when others desperately need funding for more apparent reasons. With your permission, may I update my article with your comment?
And their response:
Please do. To repeat, it’s not within either Governor Markell’s or Senator Sokola’s discretion to spend these federal transportation dollars on anything other than transportation projects. All they have done is take about ~5% of those FY17 dollars and dedicated them for improving the state for people walking and cycling. And, given that Delaware is the deadliest state in America for pedestrians, it’s not out-of-line for the state to be making improvements that make it safer for people to walk and bicycle. Not to mention, that 2/3rds of Delawareans are overweight or obese and making it safe for people to be more physically active is a critical public health priority. And, if you are an environmentalist, every bike trip that replaces a car trip means less air pollution….These are urgent public policy priorities that have absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s “hobby.”
I appreciate Bike Delaware’s response, but like I said, this is a matter of what side you agree on. Regardless of where the funds generate from, we live in a country where those who have the luxury and time to bike over bridges along the C&D Canal in Delaware have that ability. But I fail to see how these bike trails, while I’m sure are utilized by some who are less fortunate, will solve obesity problems and pedestrian deaths. In my opinion, I think pet projects like this are pushed by people like Markell and Sokola so they can enjoy them, not the people who probably aren’t even aware things like this exist because they are too busy looking for work, or already work several jobs, just to put food on the table. And it goes all the way up to a federal level and funds are locked in for specific purposes like this so they can only be used for pet projects by legislators and Governors.
*the above picture is from DelDOT
Four months ago I asked if it is possible for a district Superintendent to join a charter school board. Not only is the answer yes, but Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey was nominated for the board of Las Americas ASPIRAS and accepted the nomination back in March. This is something new in Delaware, to the best of my knowledge. Former Superintendents have joined charter boards, but never an acting Superintendent.
Technically, Blakey is already on a school board. All Delaware Superintendents serve as the Secretary of their district Board of Education. I can’t help but feel this could be a potential conflict of interest. But I would hope Blakey wouldn’t put himself in a position where anything could be misconstrued as a conflict of interest. This is one board membership I will be keeping a close eye on in years to come. Especially when the audio recordings start coming out in August or September.
There is no trace of Blakey informing the Colonial board of this decision. I would think this would be something they should know about. But there was no reflection of this in their March or April board minutes. Colonial is widely rumored to be facing a referendum in the next year or two and I would encourage Blakey to be very transparent about his extra-curricular board activities.
In the meantime, you can catch Blakey as a guest bartender…
Two new bills introduced today tackle the very problematic issue with lobbyists in Delaware. State Senator Bryan Townsend and State Rep. Paul Baumbach are the main sponsors of each bill showcasing the need for transparency from lobbyists. As well, their peers in the General Assembly will have a lot more to answer for in terms of their relationships with lobbyists. Conflicts of interest will be under the spotlight, as they should be.
Senate Bill 225, sponsored by Townsend, is a much-needed bill that removes exemptions for General Assembly members not being investigated in conflict of interest and code of conduct investigations. The legislation also requires lobbyists to disclose any payments they receive, including the source of the payment and the amount.
House Bill 385, sponsored by Baumbach, would make it so lobbyists have to pay a registration fee to offset the costs imposed on the Public Integrity Commission. Many lobbyists pose a conflict of interest and this bill would actually generate funds in a situation that deals with this ongoing issue.
Both of these bills are very welcome in my opinion. We can’t cut the rot out of Delaware politics until we get to the root of it. And unfortunately for the good lobbyists, there are many bad ones. In most investigations, it becomes a standard game of follow the money. If both of these bills pass, that will be much easier.
This will get real interesting with the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. In Delaware education, they are both at Legislative Hall for anything education related. I would love to know how much the lobbyists for the Delaware Business Roundtable make as well.
Updated, 5:20pm: I’m now seeing a third bill introduced today, once again by Townsend. Senate Bill 224 deals with Campaign Finance Reform and disclosure of a contributor’s occupation and employment information. This is already done in federal elections. It looks like the transparency train is finally making a stop in Dover…
I have actually heard this rumor the past few months. I haven’t written about it because I did not know if it was 100% true or not. I had a feeling it was. It turns out the Public Integrity Commission is very interested in this as well. So much so that it is on their agenda for their meeting on Tuesday, April 19th. Who is the board member and who is the Superintendent? Continue reading “A School Board Member, A Superintendent, And The Public Integrity Commission”
In the January minutes for the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors, a notation was made about Chairman Charles McDowell having the board approve an invoice by for a report that was done. The invoice was provided by the Executive Director for both Family Foundations Academy and EastSide Charter School. The invoice, for $10,500.00, was for a report on an Early Learning Academy study. The board approved the payment. The minutes went on to talk about the feasibility of having an Early Learning Academy in New Castle, DE. Continue reading “Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest”
All charter schools in Delaware except Newark Charter School file 990 tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service. Charters are considered 501c3 corporations. 501c3 corporations are tax-exempt companies. Most non-profits, like Rodel, fall under this category. Unless they meet very certain criteria, they are required to file Form 990 with the IRS. Could this be why Delaware Senator David Sokola, who lives in a district which also contains much of Newark Charter School’s five mile radius, is so opposed to House Bill 186? It wouldn’t be the first time Senator Sokola has gone to bat for NCS.
In 1995, before any charter schools even opened in Delaware, the IRS issued new regulations concerning 501c3 corporations. It allowed very specific exemptions from 501c3 organizations from filing their 990 form. The IRS ruling was straight forward: if you were a governmental unit and a 501 company, you didn’t have to file. There were very strict guidelines for what constitutes a “governmental unit”: Continue reading “Senator Sokola & Newark Charter School’s Smoking Gun With The IRS”
Yvonne Johnson serves as the Vice-President of Advocacy for the Delaware PTA, sits on the board of the National PTA, and in news that most people don’t know is also employed with the Christina School District as the Parent Engagement Coordinator. The issue with this surrounds transparency. Nothing has ever been officially announced with Johnson’s hiring in this role. There is no official name on the Delaware Division of Corporations for Yvonne Johnson as a business. According to her National PTA profile, Johnson is a self-employed education consultant:
She has also been very involved in several current initiatives with the Christina School District, including their upcoming referendum and the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. The Christina referendum is on March 23rd. As for the elementary school, Johnson is listed as the Christina Parent Engagement Coordinator in an announcement for a meeting at the school on March 1st:
I looked on the Christina School District website, and it seems Christina already has someone else listed as their Family & Community Engagement Supervisor, Whitney Williams. What is even more interesting is this idea for Thurgood Marshall in turning it into a Kindergarten to 8th grade school. Quite simply, this is not in the district’s official plans for their upcoming referendum. The current building for the school would not even be able to house a K-8 program.
As for Johnson’s role in this idea, is it proper for someone to be paid to have parents lobby the school board? As the next three pictures show, taken from notes and a presentation on the “Marshall Plan”, Johnson has very specific ideas about this idea and the referendum. Johnson also served as the head of the Referendum Committee for the Red Clay Consolidated School District last year. Red Clay’s referendum was subject to a lawsuit that has not been decided on as of this date.
We don’t see a Christina School District email address for Johnson, but that makes sense if she is self-employed and has some type of contract with the district. However, no such contract exists on their website.
This is where we see Yvonne Johnson actively soliciting parents to advocate for the “Marshall Plan” by essentially lobbying the Christina Board of Education. But the next picture paints an even bigger picture:
We see the line “Get out and vote for the referendum for planning $$”. Should a paid consultant to the district be advocating for parents to “get out and vote” for increased money for the school district in which she is paid to consult for? Is this plan even a part of the board-approved referendum?
The referendum does call for planning funds for potential grade reconfiguration in the amount of $100,000.00. However, the “Marshall Plan” is looking at getting this going in the 2017-2018 school year. That would require extensive capital costs to reconfigure an existing school that does not have the capacity. If they shrunk the class sizes, the district does not have the ability to pay for that either. The upcoming referendum is strictly for operating costs and not capital costs, which would be needed to move the school if necessary. So my big question would be what in the name of Thurgood Marshall is going on with all of this? While there is nothing in writing on the district website or in board documents indicating Johnson has a contract, several sources who wished to have their name withheld for this article have indicated Johnson has openly told them she is being paid for her services to the Christina School District.
In my opinion, Johnson’s capacity as serving on several different groups as well as her self-employed advocacy job, the Delaware PTA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, several different Red Clay initiatives, and now her job with Christina, has far too many potential conflicts of interest for her to be issuing fair and impartial judgment on the Wilmington education scene. As well, her position as a National PTA board member forbids her from advocating for opt-out of standardized testing but she is a consultant with a school district that had their board pass a policy honoring a parent’s right to opt out.
Don’t get me wrong here, I very much want Christina’s referendum to be successful. I was not happy when their referenda did not pass last year. But I also believe in full transparency, especially when a school district is asking for trust from their voters. Trust is a two-way street. Which means all aspects of school finances, contracts, and vendors need to be visibly apparent for all to see.
On a personal note, Yvonne Johnson is a great advocate. There aren’t too many people in Delaware who have advocated for students as long as she has. But the lines get blurry at times when people in Delaware jump on too many trains. Yes, Delaware is a small state and if we had more parents taking on these kinds of roles, this wouldn’t be an issue. But for those who do, they must recognize any potential conflicts of interest and act accordingly for the betterment of students.
In some cases, issues with cousins come up all the time! But in this scenario, there is a CLEAR conflict of interest going on. While this is fiction, this could never happen in the real world. Or could it?
To my knowledge, this is a first. A New Castle County school district Superintendent has been nominated to join a charter school board. I know board members from a traditional school district are not able to join a charter school board, but I don’t believe there is anything in Delaware state code that would prevent a Superintendent from joining. With that being said, I believe this would be a HUGE conflict of interest for both the charter and the district. Continue reading “Can A Superintendent Of A School District Join A Charter School Board?”
Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office released the Family Foundation Academy full inspection report a year after it was revealed their office was investigating them. The biggest finding: Ex Head of School leaders Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, as well as other employees of the school, racked up $141,000 in personal purchases with over $1.2 million unverifiable whether it was business or pleasure. The report talks about the settlement agreement Moore and Brewington and the Board of Directors for a little over $85,000. There is a mountain of abuse and violations in this report! Even some that occurred well after East Side Charter essentially took over the school at the end of last year. This is really, really bad.
AOA’s inspection revealed the administration at Family Foundations Academy (the Academy) seemingly operated in its own universe during the period July 1, 2011 through January 31, 2015.
Updated, 3:45pm: with the press release from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office:
As the acting Superintendent of the Christina School District, Bob Andrzejewski will certainly have his hands full in 2016. He was voted in by the Christina School District Board of Education back in September with a 4-3 vote, and he has been working hard for the district! As a new face for the district, Bob A (as he is known in many circles) has been trying to get Christina to the top of their game! With the pending and potential move of all Christina’s Wilmington schools to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, as well as a potential referendum next year, Bob A will have his hands full!
I have heard mixed things about Bob A since he came aboard the Christina train. But one thing he does have is fans! This one appeared in The News Journal as a letter to the editor on September 11th of this year:
Andrzejewski good choice for Christina
Kudos to the Christina School Board for selecting “Dr. A” to lead the district while Dr. Freeman Williams is on leave. Bob Andrzejewski has been around the block a time or two, but has not lost his passion for education or for seeking the best for educators and students. He is a strong leader and his past successes working with parents, elected officials, business leaders and the Delaware State Education Association will serve the Christina District well. He also knows the “Delaware Way” of working together to make good things happen for students.
Christina School District
That was super nice of Michael Walls to write that about Bob A! It really helps to have your peers recognize you like that. Bob is actually hard at work getting the Christina School District to join the BRINC Consortium. This blended learning-personalized learning group of Delaware school districts already has Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay, Appoquinimink, and Caesar Rodney. I imagine Bob A has no other ulterior motives for joining this initiative!
Wait one darn minute! How did that picture get in here. This is about Bob A, not Mike Walls! He already had his moment in here. He isn’t affiliated with Christina anymore. He is working for some company called Modern Teacher now. You can look on their website, just click on the lower left-hand corner! Wait, is that…the same as the above picture? Bob A wants the Christina School District to sign a $49,000 contract with a company that has the former Christina Superintendent working for them? How did that happen? It could be a coincidence, right? It’s not like Walls endorsed the Christina board’s decision to hire him, so there is no conflict of interest there! Oh wait…he did… But let’s be real here. It’s not like Andrzejewski has any ties with personalized learning, right? Right? Oh no. Say it ain’t so…
What in the world is Innovative Educational Associates? Any relation to Robert Andrzejewski? And where did that picture come from? Oh yeah, here. But there surely must be many Andrzejewskis in Delaware, right? Okay, I’ll check the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. Maybe they have something. Okay, but all they have is an address for this Innovative Educational Associates. It’s probably some office complex or something. I’ll check block shopper! They always know this stuff! Uh-oh spaghetti-o’s, not only does it list the same address but it shows the owners of the property to be Robert and Kathleen Andrzejewski! But maybe it’s a quirk and Bob A has nothing to do with the company… Wrong again!!!! I was really hoping I was wrong about this…
So not only does Bob A want Christina to enter into a contract with this Modern Teacher that deals with blended learning that a former superintendent of Christina now works for, but his own company also deals with blended learning, the same as the BRINC Consortium that also is big on blended learning. I’m blended out Bob A! Yeah, I’ll definitely be watching out for Bob A in 2016!
Yesterday, I wrote an article about some very concerning events at Delaware Met. I emailed the Delaware Department of Education about these concerns, along with legislators, Governor Markell, and Attorney General Matt Denn. State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked the DOE to look at the amount of in-school suspensions as well to which Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman responded today:
From: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
To: Baumbach Paul <email@example.com>; Kevin Ohlandt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <email@example.com>; O’Mara Lindsay <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Denn Matthew <email@example.com>; Williams Kimberly <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Kowalko John <email@example.com>; Matthews Sean <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Gray Teri <email@example.com>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Young Shana <Shana.Young@doe.k12.de.us>; Carwell John <email@example.com>; Whalen Michelle <Michelle.Whalen@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, October 23, 2015 2:32 PM
Subject: RE: Delaware Met
DOE staff visited Delaware Met yesterday afternoon to investigate the alleged violations of students rights. Below is a summary of their observations relative to the specific allegations reported by Mr. Ohlandt:
- Hiring prison guards – The school has hired four new support staff to help address the school’s climate issues. They began working at the school on Monday. Two of these individuals have backgrounds in juvenile corrections and currently serve a number of Delaware Met students in external community based programs.
- Multiple suspensions – It appears that the school is attempting to be more consistent with holding students accountable to the code of conduct which might explain a spike in suspensions. The exact number of suspensions will be verified.
- Inappropriate student confinements – There was no evidence of inappropriate student confinements. DDOE staff observed the In School Suspension (ISS) room. There were 2-3 students in the room.
DOE will continue to monitor the school and investigate potential violations of the school’s charter through the formal review process.
Many thanks, David
My biggest concern is how special education and IEPs are being implemented with fidelity at Delaware Met. And as I wrote earlier today, there seems to be confusion with their Code of Conduct, discipline efforts, and their Restorative Justice approach. In essence, I’m sure there is a lot we aren’t being told about what the exact nature is of the offenses students are committing that warrant suspension. From what I am hearing from Blowman, the school may be administering a type of zero-tolerance program in an attempt to instill order in the school. I do not think that is viable solution, nor is it a positive long-term action. It takes more students out of the classroom and away from education. I have not seen anything coming from this school to indicate they are making the best decisions or even know how to. But can parents of suspended students afford to wait until the State Board of Education makes a decision in mid-December? And even then, if they ultimately wind up deciding to revoke the school’s charter, it would not be until the end of the school year. How much damage can happen until then?
As well, I have heard numerous references to “gang-related” activity, both from third parties and the DOE’s own Formal Review notification letter. I don’t believe the DOE is equipped as a state agency to handle that type of thing and it may take the Delaware Attorney General’s office getting involved to gage what is truly going on with that aspect of events.
I also have to wonder how well the staff is at dealing with these types of matters. From what I am hearing, the bulk of the teachers are new. Do they have the necessary training and development to be able to deal with defiance from students? Does the administration? And for that matter, who is running the school? Is it Sean Gallagher who already has a full-time role as the Executive Director of Leadership at Innovative Schools for the Delaware Leadership Project? Or is it his intern who Gallagher stated at their 9/28 board meeting would run the “day-to-day” details of the school? And why has no one questioned the apparent conflict of interest with being paid by both Innovative Schools and the school that makes payments to Innovative Schools?
This culture of silence emanating from the school and their lack of transparency is highly troubling. Two board members left (which are not changed on their web site), no staff are listed on their website, and no board minutes have been released since their 9/23 meeting even though they have had three board meetings since then (their “special board meetings” on 9/28 and 10/12 and their regular monthly board meeting on 10/21). We don’t know what their current student enrollment is or even how many students have been suspended in the two months since the school opened. I’m sure answers will come at the November 4th meeting of the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for Delaware Met’s formal review, but that may be little comfort to students and their parents who want answers now.
Today, on Town Square Delaware, members of The Delaware Met Board of Directors broke the public veil of silence and spoke out on the issues surrounding the school. Based on this information and other information that has been sent my way, I have put a picture together of the events that happened last week at the embattled charter school
On Monday, a squirrel got into a transformer causing the power to go out at the school. As a result, there was no school on 9/21. On Tuesday, the students returned to school. Where it gets a bit hazy is what happened next. But what is certain there was no school from 9/23 to 9/25 due to emergency professional development for the teachers:
With the blessing of the Department of Education, we chose to give our teachers professional development time last week to assess these needs and make adjustment.
I believe the school, based on discussion from their Monday night board meeting, did attempt to reach out to parents to let them know about these unforeseen days off which were not on their website calendar. On Wednesday 9/23, based on their agenda for their 9/28 meeting, the Board met in a Special Board meeting. There was no agenda on their website, so it is difficult to surmise what was discussed at this board meeting. On Friday, shortly before noon, I received two emails indicating the school was closing the next week due to violence, gang activity, fighting and Innovative Schools, the school’s management organization, severing ties. I emailed the DOE and the school immediately for any type of confirmation. To date, no one responded to any of my emails. The school has this information, and chose to ignore me completely.
At the same time, we began to be made aware of whispers in our community and beyond that the school had already chosen to close. To answer these rumors, it was important for the Board to hold a special meeting.
This would have been the second special board meeting, so what was the reason for the first? I knew of Delaware Met, but up until Friday I had never heard a peep about this school aside from an occasional article here and there. The only time I wrote about them on here was for their performance award application and their award of $175,000.00. The school had and still has every opportunity to contact me, and they know how to. Back to Friday, a few other sources confirmed the earlier email I received. To be honest, I thought the email was a joke, or someone trying to give me false information, which happens more than you think as a blogger. I’m sure mainstream reporters can attest to this as well. Other sources confirmed this information, except for one part: the part about Innovative Schools cutting ties with the school. For someone to send that to me, it would have to be someone with inside information. Since other sources were already vetting all the other information, I knew this story had legs so I published it. While the DOE and I are battling on several issues, I sincerely reached out to them and the school.
Over the weekend, I did an extensive amount of research on the school, their student population, their application with the DOE, their finances, how they acquired the property at 920 N. French St, and other material on the property kept popping up as I was looking. As I collected the information, it provided a wealth of articles. In the meantime, the school put up their notice of the second special board meeting at some point over the weekend which I saw Sunday night. As well, they put an announcement up on their Facebook page about an important announcement the next day and they hoped everyone would be there. I’m not sure what their announcement was, but I responded to their post and addressed what I heard point blank. To date, no one responded to my public plea for information.
On Monday, I focused on the history of the property. Meanwhile, the school was giving information to the News Journal and alleging that the “rumors” were causing more harm than help. Rumors which they knew came from this blog, they had my email address, they could have responded on Facebook, or even commented on the many articles that went up over four days. Meanwhile, thousands of Delawareans were reading what I wrote with complete silence from the school aside from cryptic Facebook messages and even more cryptic board agenda announcements where they announced they were going to vote if they should keep their charter. Without a charter, there is no school. No school would ever put up a notice like that over “rumors”.
On Monday evening, the board voted to keep the school open. There was a great deal of discussion concerning enrollment, best practices for the teachers, financial viability, and school culture. Many members of the community attended this board meeting that would not have normally if the “rumors” had not surfaced. Serious questions arose out of this board meeting and deep concerns about the school’s ability to service and educate a very high population of special needs students. Many of the teachers are not seasoned, and the school had (at that point) two special education teachers with a population of 60 IEPs, and more projected. Legislators, reporters, and citizens attended this board meeting, and the bulk of them left feeling very perplexed at the administration of this school.
I’m not sure if Delaware charter schools have received a “don’t respond to the blogger” email. But more often than not, no one from the charters respond after an inquiry before I publish or after I publish based on information that is already in the public domain. I am open to communication. If you disagree with something or find my information is not factual, please reach out to me. I have fixed information based on a different perception or not being able to find information many times. Most reporters have. I don’t consider myself a “journalist” per se, but I do devote quite a bit of free time looking for answers and I write based on what I found. I also offer my opinion which sets me apart from the typical newspaper or television reporter.
Yes, I had a bad response with a charter once upon a time. Yes, I don’t like the idea of unelected boards. No, I don’t hate charters. I hate what many of the adults do at charters. I get charter parents going ballistic on me cause I dare to write about “their” school. If they want to give me facts, I am up for that. But one commenter seemed offended that I dared to question what she wrote. It’s a free world. And while I respect anonymity, understand that I have no idea who you are. I don’t know if you are the school, the DOE, or a parent. I was taught by a college professor that they key to life is not in the answers, but in the questions. I will always ask the questions based on the facts that are presented to me or that I find.
With that being said, these are my biggest questions concerning The Delaware Met AND the property:
- When did the school know they had a large population of special needs students coming and what did they do to prepare for it?
- Who is their special education coordinator?
- Why do they have no financial information on their website?
- What does Innovative Schools do for $380,000 in two plus years?
- Why did Innovative Schools pay $1 million to the Charter School Development Corporation who in turn bought 920 N. French St from the State of Delaware for an undisclosed and not in the public domain amount?
- Why does The Delaware Met need Innovative Schools?
- Why does one of their board members allow the school to pay the company he is a chair of?
- Why does another board member work for the same company that handles the school’s finances?
- Did the school reach out to other charters or districts for help with their student population?
- Did a student bring a gun to the school on the very first day?
- What was the purpose of the board’s special board meeting on 9/23?
- What was the big announcement revealed to students on Monday 9/28?
- How is a student with an IEP accommodated while at an internship?
- Does any member of the board benefit in any way from an internship by a student?
- Has the school considered hiring a School Resource Officer?
- Where is their student handbook?
- What is their enrollment as of 11:59pm this evening, including basic, moderate, complex and intensive subgroups for their large special education population?
- Are their teachers adequately trained to determine what is behavior and what may be a manifestation of a student’s disability?
- Do they have the staff to complete IEP meetings since so many of the IEPs may need to be relooked at based on their curriculum?
- How much did the State of Delaware sell 920 N. French St. to Charter School Development Corporation and why is this not on any public website?
- Where did the State of Delaware put this revenue?
- Is there any immediate danger to staff or students at the school due to its Brownfield Site designation?
- What was the nature of the work Duffield Associates did for the school last year?
- What is the DOE’s duty to ensure new charter schools are ready from day one to run a school?
- What are the DOE’s next steps in terms of this school?
While I understand the school can’t answer all these questions, I welcome Innovative Schools or the State of Delaware to answer them as well if it applies to them. You may not feel like you have to answer them, but I’m like a dog without a bone sometimes…
Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal finally jumped on the Delaware Met story three days after this blog broke the news about it’s pending closure. The article does not state the school is closing because the board is meeting tonight to decide if they should hand in their charter. I would fully expect a mainstream media source to take this route. However, I do take offense to this part:
Rumors circulated through the weekend that Delaware Met had already made the decision to close. Students did not attend school Friday – Harrington said the school scheduled professional development for teachers – but kids were back Monday.
“We’ve been trying to get the message out to parents that no decision has been made, but they keep hearing people saying it’s already happened,” Harrington said. “It isn’t helping.”
Why would Albright only contact the school about this? There was no mention of the Delaware Department of Education who I’m sure would have been notified. As well, he knew what the source of the “rumors” was and I never heard from him. But he was up in Philly for the Papal Visit. Mr. Harrington, you could have easily contacted me as well, but the school did not respond to my two emails on Friday. Nor did the Department of Education.
Is this school a special education school? Calling it a “Big Picture School” is not indicative of what has been going on there.
Second, the board will decide whether the school can get a handle on problems with school climate. Harrington said there have been fights and incidents in which students have been disrespectful towards school staff.
“We’re talking about kids acting out,” Harrington said. “Our board’s and leadership’s priority is making sure we can provide a safe environment for our students.”
Part of providing a safe environment for students is having a firm handle on student’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) prior to the start of school. Being that there was no board meeting in August, I would really have to wonder how prepared this school was for opening day. I do have a lot of respect for Ed Emmett from Positive Outcomes, and he could be a valuable source for helping the school understand special education issues. But I think their financial issues may be beyond just an enrollment issue. How much are they paying to Innovative Schools for rent? Since they have NO financial information on their website (which they are required to do monthly as per Delaware law), how could anyone ascertain what their financial picture is?
I also have to question the role Innovative Schools plays in Delaware education. Their name has been attached to far too many charters that close or have huge financial issues at some point. Is it time to reel them in for a serious investigation? And of course Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network is riding in for the rescue. But is it too late? Given everything I have written about this school in the past few days I would be very concerned as a parent of a teenager attending this school. Conflicts of Interest are as transparent as Saran Wrap and this school has red flags all over it.