McGuiness Isn’t Even Elected A Week And She’s Already Stirring Up Controversy

Last week, Delawareans decided to put Kathy McGuiness in the State Auditor position.  Not all Delawareans, that is, but enough for her to win.  It’s not like I didn’t warn you all for the past year.  According to the Cape Gazette, McGuiness hasn’t decided if she will vacate her position as Rehoboth Commissioner.  Hello Delaware, can you say conflict of interest? Continue reading

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Bombshell Document Shows Massive Amounts Of Collusion With Indian River School District Audit Investigation

It appears there was collusion going on between various Delaware agencies when it came to the Indian River School District audit investigation in 2016.  As a result of that collusion, Patrick Miller walks free and Susan Bunting became the Delaware Secretary of Education. Continue reading

Exclusive: Odyssey Parent’s Email To Board About Unethical Board Practices & Conflicts Of Interest

No sooner do I post an article about Odyssey than an email comes in from an Odyssey parent who is fed up with their Board!  While this email has been circulating among Odyssey parents on social media today, this is the first time it has been open to the public like this.  The parent gave me full permission to post this and considers it a public document! Continue reading

Delaware DOE’s Charter Diva Stouffer Replaces Chuck Taylor At Providence Creek Academy

I knew Providence Creek Academy had no choice but to finally find a new Head of School after their “three-year search”.  Chuck Taylor was never supposed to stay that long.  It was, after all, just a coincidence he stayed for three years at a greatly increased salary of $170,000.00.  It is also a coincidence he was able to get his pension based on that $170,000 figure because it goes by your three highest years of salaries as a state employee.  But hiring Denise Stouffer?  The lead from the Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office?  Are you kidding me?

As always in Delaware education, it’s not what you know, it is WHO you know.  She and Chuck were buddy-buddy on the Charter School Accountability Committee ever since she came aboard in the lead position two years ago.  Denise Stouffer was ALSO who I talked to at the DOE last summer when the anonymous Providence Creek teacher and staff crowd had me post their complaints and their attempt to join the union.  Nothing came of that.  Hell, Denise Stouffer even told me her office did a thorough investigation and found none of their claims to be true.  Imagine that!  And now she is their Head of School!

I’ve talked to Stouffer a bit over the past couple years.  There is something off.  Something… I don’t know… call it… a trust issue.  I don’t always believe her.  I know, as the head of the Charter School Office at the DOE it was her job to oversee charters under the DOE’s authority.  She certainly wasn’t going to give me any more ammunition than I already had.  But I heard of too many folks going to her about things and then bad things happened.  Usually a termination at a charter school.  God forbid you go to the state agency overseeing many charter schools and actually lodge a beef against them.  But that was how it was.

I still smell a stink from PCA.  Something has NEVER felt right about that place.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Stouffer isn’t leading the Charter School Office anymore.  I’m also glad Chuck Taylor is retiring.  But this kind of thing doesn’t get PCA off my radar.  Not at all.  The fact that NO official charges ever came out against anyone at PCA with their own charter school money theft thing.  In the prosecutions that did occur, it wasn’t the school pressing charges.  That came from either the feds or Delaware’s Attorney General office.  Their was a whole damn audit report with tons of findings showing there was theft at PCA.  So how the hell did the statute of limitations run out on that?  Like I said, something smells like three-month old fish over there in Clayton.

While there is nothing in Delaware state code against a DOE employee taking a job at any Delaware school, this one seems off.  I probably wouldn’t care if this were any other school.  But Stouffer was the person who was supposed to conduct a proper investigation into PCA when the “We’re Worried” crew went to her and NOTHING happened from that tells me something was hushed.  And she had the unmitigated gall to act offended to me based on what I wrote about her role with things at PCA knowing she used her position at DOE to leverage herself to the top position at one of the charters she had to oversee really ticks me off.  This is a conflict of interest but of course nothing will happen because We Are Delaware!  Before the PCA parents start hammering me with the “she got the job because she was qualified” schtick, there were many qualified over the past three years to take that job.  This oh-so-convenient hiring leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.  But I really shouldn’t be surprised.

 

Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!

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

More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill

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

Christina Board Race Down To Three. Is There A Concern With One Of Them?

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

Ex-DOE Employee Trying To Steer The Conversation With Delaware’s ESSA Plan… But He’s A Benefactor…

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’s Do Or Die Moment Has To Happen NOW!

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’s Letter To NCS Parents About Lawsuit… NCS Didn’t Join The Suit, They Instigated It!!!!

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?

ncsparentletteraboutlawsuit

 

***UPDATED***Delaware Approves $20.7 Million So Markell & Sokola Can Have Safe Bike Rides But Ignore Special Education Funding Bill?

markellcyclingThis 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

Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey Joins Board of Las Americas ASPIRAS Charter School

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.

LAAABoardMinutesApril2016

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…

ColonialGuestBartenderNight

Townsend & Baumbach Declare War On Lobbyists & Legislator Conflicts Of Interest

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.

SB225

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.

HB385

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…

SB224

A School Board Member, A Superintendent, And The Public Integrity Commission

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

Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest

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

Senator Sokola & Newark Charter School’s Smoking Gun With The IRS

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

Is There A Conflict Of Interest With A High-Ranking DE PTA Member Involving Christina School District?

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:

YvonneNationalPTAProfile

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:

MarshallInterestMtg

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.

MarshallPlan1

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.

MarshallPlan2

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:

MarshallPlan3

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.

All In The Family

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?

 

Can A Superintendent Of A School District Join A Charter School Board?

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

Family Foundations Investigation Released By State Auditor, The Damage: $141,000 Verified, $1.2 Million “Unverifiable”

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:

FFA