Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli

If you read the News Journal article on the Charter School of Wilmington teachers voting to unionize, it was filled with reasons why President Sam Paoli did not want the teachers to unionize. The article failed to capitalize on why the vote happened in the first place- CSW President Sam Paoli.

At this point it is unclear why the educators wanted to unionize or by how large a margin the vote was successful.

I have those answers. Continue reading “Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli”

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What Is Margie Lopez Waite Doing Now? And Is A 3rd Charter In The Mix With Her Plans For DAPSS & ASPIRA?

Will a Wilmington charter school become embroiled in the ongoing saga of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Las Americas ASPIRA Academy?  Many are saying yes. Continue reading “What Is Margie Lopez Waite Doing Now? And Is A 3rd Charter In The Mix With Her Plans For DAPSS & ASPIRA?”

You Are Cordially Invited To Hear The DOE Talk About The Plans At DAPSS

Attention, attention!  Hear ye, hear ye!  Let it be known throughout the land that the Delaware Department of Education will be taking part of a question and answer session with parents of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security tomorrow night at the school!  Also attending will be Principal Herbert Sheldon and Director of Public Safety David Wainwright.  You know, the two guys who were given their walking papers last week. The soon-to-be leaving Denise Stouffer who runs the Charter School Office will also be attending this once in a lifetime (literally because she is leaving the DOE at the end of this fiscal year to run Providence Creek Academy) event.  If you didn’t get your parent letter about this, the meeting starts at 6pm in the all-purpose room of the school.

So what is on the agenda? As per their website:

The Academy’s vision and mission is not changing
DAPSS is not becoming ASPIRA High School
Personnel changes were due to enrollment, budget, and certification requirements
Personnel committee has been formed and is actively working to provide insight and will release public report on or about May 24, 2018

Rumor has it Board President Margie Lopez-Waite will not be in attendance. Which, if true, is certainly interesting. Especially since the reasons for this meeting are based on changes she began. I would think she would attend, but perhaps she has to recover from their board meeting last week. I did check the Las Americas ASPIRAS website and I do not see anything scheduled for tomorrow evening which would prevent her from attending. Their board meeting is on Thursday. But it does look like the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be given to students all week long. I’ve always loved how many charter schools get to take it later in the year when the students have more instruction towards the tests. But I digress.

So why is Denise Stouffer going in Margie’s stead? Beats me. Is she also on the personnel committee that will get so much insight in a week? I did hear she went to the school last week and talked to students and told them not to believe the horrible and nasty lies on the web. In other words, all those social media posts and this very blog. Denise and I have a history. A weird one. Not the easiest person to get a straight answer from. So good luck with THAT tomorrow night DAPSS parents! Not sure what would be more important for Margie that she wouldn’t squeeze this into her schedule. It could be personal, but since she created this pony show I would think DAPSS would hold it on Tuesday or Wednesday night. But what do I know? I’m just a damn blogger.

Come one, come all.

Where’s Kendall? And Margie, I Don’t Have To Know You But I Do Know A Scam When I See One!

I just saw a video of the entire Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security board meeting from this evening.  Since I’m the only blog (or media at this point) really writing about DAPSS these days, I feel it is safe to assume Board President Margie Lopez-Waite was talking about “the blog”.  But an even bigger question is where the Delaware Charter School Network was?  Isn’t their job to support charter schools?  Where was Kendall Massett?

Margie did all the talking for the entire board.  She played a game of bait and switch with the members of the audience.  On one hand, she said she became the “scapegoat” for the slew of termination notices that went out Monday.  She said Head of School Herb Sheldon played a direct role in that.  She is trying to make it sound like those were his decisions to make and carry out.  But then, on the other hand, she has the board pass a motion to revisit those terminations.  She said, “A school can’t function if we don’t let the leaders lead”.  But she is attempting to play to the crowd.

In terms of the DAPSS programs going away, Margie said emphatically they are not going away.  But she said several times she wants to essentially marry DAPSS and her long-term goal of having an ASPIRA high school.   That is her vision.  No one else is screaming for that vision.  Do not let her fool you.  She saw an opportunity and struck.

“When I look in the mirror, I know who I am…And I hope that one day you guys learn the person I am.  Cause I have no agenda here.  I have no motivation other than helping children.  So you can read all you want on the blog.  You can get your information from those sources but they’re all completely wrong.  That person doesn’t know me.  They are just trying to feed you information.  “

You are absolutely right Margie.  I don’t know you.  I’ve seen you a handful of times prior to your involvement in DAPSS.  I’ve never written about anything big at ASPIRA as I have other Delaware charter schools.  But what you seem to forget is the nature of this blog.  I don’t pull stuff out of the air.  It comes to me.  From multiple sources.  If I have nothing to write about, I don’t write.  Plain and simple.  And yes, I am trying to feed information.  What is the purpose of this blog if it isn’t to inform?  I don’t get paid.  I could care less if 10 people read this or 5,000.  I’m just getting it out there because once upon a time I needed information.  Guess where I found a lot of it?  Not in mainstream media articles.  I found it on blogs.  From people that were there.  From comments on blogs.  From what I heard, YOU didn’t know a lot of the staff that were fired the other day either.  In fact, one staff member pointed out how you had never once said hello to him during your many visits to the school.

You said that less than 20% of the teachers were cut.  But at the same time you said other teachers “resigned” because they weren’t able to take alternative positions.  When you tell a full-time teacher they have to become a part-time teacher and they can’t afford that, you aren’t offering them an opportunity.  You are basically saying “you mean nothing but I don’t have the guts to just come out and fire you so I’ll let you quit first.”  Which, in my opinion, is extremely scummy.  So if those people are getting the “demote or leave” slip, what does the percentage come out to factoring that in Margie?  I get the financial perspective and sometimes there is fat to be trimmed.  But we both know this was more than that.  Don’t try to downplay it at a board meeting.  Say those numbers in public including staff members.

You sit there and say you have no agenda or motivation while at the same time you are telling people who were just screaming at you that you want to merge DAPSS with your ASPIRA high school.  You say you don’t want to interfere with the Head of School but you effectively took over the board, got folks who you KNOW will vote with you (hello Joanne Schlossberg from Newark Charter School), and all of a sudden pink slips are going out left and right.  You talked about the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and how you wished folks came down to Dover.  I did.  I was there.  I heard you say you were going to make tough decisions people were not going to like.  Not the board.  Not the Head of School.  But you.  Not once did I hear a damn thing about your plan to merge DAPSS and this ASPIRA high school.  I heard the rumors that you have always wanted that.  Nor did you mention this HUGE need to have Spanish and Chinese programs at DAPSS.  So don’t try to spin this as if you are some scapegoat.  You initiated all of this.  Like you are the damn superhero that “saved the school”.  You didn’t save anything.  You are an opportunist who saw a chance to get your precious dual language high school on the cheap without just doing it yourself.  And you pissed off a ton of people along the way.  I don’t need to know you.  I need to listen, and hear, and report.  You also don’t know me.  Nor have you ever made a point to.  And I’m okay with that.

As for the part where she started conversing with a parent DURING public comment IN SPANISH, that happened when the father stated he was Puerto Rican like her.  She began speaking in Spanish to him but he shot her down and explained that even though he knows the language he speaks English in his house and his kids do as well.  He said Spanish is NOT the most important language in the world.  But when folks are complaining about having dual language programs at their school, that probably isn’t the best time to start talking in Spanish during a board meeting when someone else is giving public comment.  The fact I have to point this out speaks volumes!

Lopez-Waite listened to what parents had to say.  She took the jabs and expressed her opinions about them.  But never once did she say anything about reconsidering HER vision for an ASPIRA high school.  Even though the parents, former students, and current students loudly said they didn’t want the current programming diluted by HER vision.  When you fail to truly listen and act on what you are hearing, by ignoring the will of the people (and that audience was the DAPSS family), you disrespect them.

Did DAPSS need changes?  Well, yeah, they were under formal review and about to get shut down.  The only thing that shocked me about all that is how long it took the Delaware DOE to initiate that formal review.  But Lopez-Waite came in like a bear and wanted to tear the camp apart.  And she did.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Own them.  Be accountable.  That’s what we want our students to learn.  But when the adults can’t do it, how the hell do you think the students will?

When you have a “vision”, it is often a coin toss.  If you fail to see the other side of the coin, you can’t be shocked when that coin comes up tails.  That’s exactly what happened with Margie Lopez-Waite tonight.  She underestimated parents, staff, and students.  She assumed it was the same crowd she has at ASPIRA.  It backfired big time!  With this crowd, you wouldn’t dare pull your next move, which was to make yourself Head of School at DAPSS.  They would have fileted you alive and you knew it.  Which was why the board meeting was cut short before you could even get through the agenda.

And once more, for the record, where’s Kendall?

Absolute Insanity At DAPSS Board Meeting Right Now! Margie Screwed Up Big Time!

At the Delaware Academy of Safety & Security board meeting going on now, parents are screaming at Margie Lopez-Waite and students are crying.  They are very upset with her about the mass termination of anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the staff on Monday.  They are also very pissed at her about her plans to turns DAPSS into a type of ASPIRA High School. Continue reading “Absolute Insanity At DAPSS Board Meeting Right Now! Margie Screwed Up Big Time!”

Charter Nepotism At ASPIRA & DAPSS

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security will have a new Director of Instruction as of July 1st.  Deborah Panchisin resigned as an Executive Director of Instruction at Appoquinimink School District last month, effective July 1st.  Greg Panchisin is the Chief Operating Officer at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy.  Greg and Deborah Panchisin are married.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the Head of School at Las Americas ASPIRA.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the current President of DAPSS’ board.  Margie Lopez-Waite is slated to be the next Head of School at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Margie Lopez-Waite proudly boasted of having someone lined up to take over the position of Director of Instruction a few months ago at a Charter School Accountability Committee meeting when DAPSS was under formal review.

This is what happens when anyone is allowed to insert themselves into a leadership role at a charter school.  They cause chaos and use personal connections to hire who they want and who cares if it is a very personal connection.  Because they are two different schools, it is not against the law.  But it is certainly a manipulative and scummy move.  Please continue to tell me this is “for the students”.  Margie Lopez-Waite played the Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Board of Education.  And Secretary Bunting.  And they fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The Panchisins make a combined income of $245,000 in their current roles.  Deborah Panchisin makes $136k at Appoquinimink.  Greg Panchisin makes $109k at ASPIRA.  Say she gets a pay cut for her role at DAPSS.  They would still most likely be making a combined income well over $200k.  I imagine that handling instruction for 200 students as opposed to many more at Appo would be less work.  Less stress.

This is Delaware…

Should Charter School Board Members Be Allowed To Manipulate Their Board To Allow Themselves To Lead A School?

Stack the deck towards a power play and you often get what you want.  That is the case with Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Tomorrow night they will hold their monthly board meeting.  The rumor mill has it that Margie Lopez-Waite, the current President of their board, will resign as President and the board will vote her in as the Head of School.  With that will assuredly come some type of financial incentive for Margie’s undying loyalty to the school (insert sarcasm here).  Together with her salary at Las Americas ASPIRA, she will be making a pretty penny.  Oh yeah, Delaware state code dictates you can get your pension based on your three highest years of salary.  Something the soon to be departed Providence Creek Academy Head of School took full advantage of.

Here is the issue though.  From what I hear, Margie doesn’t spend enough time at her current school.  She has her trusted minions and followers who pretty much run the school.  By her cut throat first and answer questions later tactics yesterday, she is stacking the staff deck at DAPSS to do the same thing.  In essence, Margie Lopez-Waite is a power-hungry dictator who is completely running the school.  Unless there is a mutiny, the Delaware DOE will let it happen.  This is a classic power play on her part.  But she may have shown her cards too early.  I expect a huge crowd at their board meeting tomorrow night.  She pissed off a lot of people.  I would say I hope the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE shows up, but their leader will be leaving them soon as she… wait for it… replaces Chuck Taylor at PCA.  Perhaps it is time Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting actually took the reins on this and stopped Margie’s power trip and exposes it for what it really is.

Margie’s bloody coup is not new.  We’ve seen other “leaders” throughout history do the same thing.  We call them dictators.  Tyrants.  They don’t last in the annals of history.  Eventually the people rise up and take back the power.  This is my big issue with some of our Delaware charters.  They are run by folks who tend to answer to the ruler of the school, not the other way around.  Far too many of their board members, which are appointed, not elected, are meant to curry favor with said ruler.  While commenters on my article from last night come to the plate in defense of Margie, I have yet to hear those commenters say anything about the lives Margie destroyed yesterday.  About teachers and staff who came to work yesterday with a job and are now wondering how they will feed their families after June 30th.  Even though Margie promised more training for them through Colonial.

Margie will take full advantage of Colonial’s relationship with Relay Graduate School and get cheap teachers for DAPSS.  Relay is just another teacher-prep fast track program.  They bounce around like kangaroos in the Outback, but they are fiercely loyal to their leaders.  In other words, they are cheap puppets.  Be careful what you wish for.  You may get exactly what you want.  It helps to have friends from high school help you get what you want, doesn’t it Margie?

Bloodbath At DAPSS As Two-Thirds Of Their Staff And Herb Sheldon Were Fired Today

Delaware Academy of Safety and Security will look very different next year.  After surviving their formal review and getting their enrollment up to an acceptable level, the culling began today when 2/3rds of their staff AND Principal Herbert Sheldon got their walking papers.  They will still be there until the end of the school year, but many aren’t happy.

The Dean of Students and Discipline, Dakevis Matthews…gone

Director of Public Safety, David Wainwright…gone

Operations Specialist, Lisa Flynn…gone

Office Manager, Tara Williams…gone

Behavior Interventionist (listed on their website as a Behavior Interventionalist), Marcus Bazemore…gone

The odd part is that Sheldon did the firings.  But when he wouldn’t accept a lesser position, he was on the chopping block as well.  We ALL know where these firings are coming from.  That would be Board President Margie Lopez-Waite.  A few months ago, she dropped their Academic Director, Erica Thomas, like a bag of hot potatoes after the school got reamed in their formal review meeting at the DOE.  But if Margie is still involved in a year or so I would be shocked.  And this is why charter schools need to be unionized.  So this kind of bloodbath doesn’t happen.  Many of the staff that were fired were directly responsible for getting their enrollment to where it needed to be.  Their reward?  This.  So if you EVER want to be a teacher at ANY charter school Margie Lopez Waite is involved in, you might want to put body armor on your back so the knife doesn’t penetrate too deep.

And to think I actually congratulated Margie on DAPSS surviving their formal review… it’s going to take a lot of mouthwash for me to erase those words!  Had I known THIS was what she planned, those words would have never come out of my mouth.  You see, these are people’s lives here.  Their jobs, their income, their security.  What happened to all that extra training and support Colonial was going to give these teachers?  Where are the new teachers going to come from? TFA? Relay?  We all know Colonial has been boasting about their relationship with Relay.  Not cool, not cool at all.  For Margie… a school (even a charter school) is not the same as the banking world.  DAPSS is not MBNA.  You can’t run a school like a bank.

DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security Get 200 Students To Save Themselves From Shutdown

Talk about the last minute!  If the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security did not have a student enrollment of 200 students by tomorrow, their charter would have been revoked.  They hit that number so they have met their first condition of their probation.  Under 200 students would have meant the school would not have been financially viable as a non-profit public school.  This is “unofficial” but I am hearing this from excellent sources so I don’t doubt the viability of this claim at all.

I don’t ever wish to see any school closed unless there is some unbelievable egregious stuff going on there (case in point: Delaware Met).  I sincerely hope the school can meet the rest of their probation conditions over the coming year or so.  The whole point of any school is the success of the students.  I do wonder what schools won’t have these students next year.  Are they coming from districts or other charters or a combination of the two?  That is school choice for you and at the end of the day it is a parent’s decision!

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security Has 10 Days To Put Up Or Close Up!

Ten days.  That will make all the difference for the Wilmington charter school.  If they don’t get 24 students to apply AND commit to the struggling charter school, they will have their charter revoked at the end of this school year.

It was just last month that Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security narrowly missed getting shut down by the Delaware State Board of Education.  But the conditions mounted against them could kick in charter revocation at any time if they failed to comply.  The very first condition was the school must have 200 students by May 1st.

Last night, at the State Board of Education meeting, Denise Stouffer from the Charter School Office updated the board on DAPSS’ probation.  To date, they had 176 students enrolled for next year.  They need another 24 in the next ten days or they are toast.  That includes commitment letters signed by parents.  They could still reach that number but it would be very tough.  Their enrollment number has not gone up much since the State Board rendered their decision last month.

Ten days.  For 176 students already enrolled for next year, this could be problematic for them come June 29th if the charter for DAPPS is revoked.  These students and their parents or guardians will be forced to find a new school for the 2019-2020 school year.  Do they start looking if the school doesn’t meet their numbers by May 1st or wait to see what happens over the next few months?

Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me

For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education.  When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there.  You will find out why shortly.  I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode.  The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself.  Different names are thrown around in these emails.  Going back and reading these is always fun!  The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review.  The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails.  I wish I could have met Dave in person.  I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me.  I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it.  Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons.  That’s my business! Continue reading “Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me”

DAPSS Qualified Curriculum Director Rips School Leadership In Public Hearing

I heard the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Public Hearing the other night was off the hook, but I had no idea!  Today, the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office released the transcript of the hearing.  Their Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, went after school leadership over her many attempts to get a better curriculum going in the school but felt she was ultimately stymied in her efforts.

One criticism I received recently was that I am under-qualified to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction — coming from someone who does not have a degree — a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and experience in various aspects above and beyond that within the educational community — I find this disrespectful because my efforts have been stymied by the lack of educational leadership at the Academy which before I arrived was filled with nepotism and cronyism.

Maybe if the Delaware DOE was paying attention they would have been able to catch that nepotism and cronyism.  It wasn’t exactly a state secret on how bad this school was doing for many years, but the Delaware DOE turned a blind eye until they couldn’t.  But I digress…

I came to this school and stepped up to the challenge to improve things for students. I was told I was going to be given autonomy to create changes. However, through Academy leadership, education best practices were secondary to maintaining personal relationships. Moreover, I was undermined and a culture of distrust and suspicion was created.

As mentioned in her testimony, Thomas came to the school in August of 2016.  This was way after the school had low enrollment and proficiency issues.  Any school turnaround takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.

I came in with a strategic plan implementing LF, Read 180, IXL, many other research-based practices that we’ve put in place, and we will give you in the CSAC rebuttal. I know the Academy is capable of doing a whole lot better than what the achievement scores show, but I was stymied in my implementation of a teaching/learning model through a series of professional development and professional learning communities.

It sounds to me like she was making a valiant effort to improve things.  I’m surprised the school didn’t already have some of these key programs in the school already!

I came to the Academy to raise expectations. I came to the Academy with all of the greatest intentions. I still believe in the school and its mission. The students and staff deserve a whole lot better, but that starts at the very top. It has been made very clear to me that I am not the top. I have taken directives. I have finished tasks and I did as a good soldier would. That’s it.

Wow!  Is that coming from new Board President Margie Lopez-Waite or the vastly under-qualified Head of School Herbert Sheldon?  Or both?  Lopez-Waite comes from the MBNA/Bank of America world.  While she may have performed miracles at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (or did she just cheerlead the school while others did all the work?), it sounds like she came into DAPSS wanting to run the show.  She may be President of the Board but that does not give her the unilateral ability to do as she pleases.    It sounds like the school tried to make Thomas the sacrificial lamb in this process.  From everything I’ve seen and heard, it sounds like the biggest problem at the school is Sheldon himself!

I find it ironic that someone with an advanced degree in education with extensive knowledge of educational best practices is treated like this but their Head of School basically has a bookkeeping background at East Side Charter School.  It doesn’t seem right.  If charters are to ultimately survive, they need people with deep education backgrounds.  I’m not sure what happened as a result of Thomas’ comments, but she no longer appears on the school website.

Meanwhile, I did receive my FOIA request back from Sheldon.  All he sent was what already appears on the school’s website.  So their huge deficit will have to be discovered another way.

The rest of the Public Hearing is below.  Aside from Thomas’ controversial testimony (which also praised the school), the many public comments were in favor of the school and while many recognized the struggles of the school, it was also urged the State Board of Education keep them open.  Towards the end, the Colonial bomb is dropped by a teacher.  And a big thank you to the excellent transcriptionist at Wilcox & Fetzer who always do a great job with these Public Hearings!

Colonial School District Aims To Become Charter Authorizer For Delaware Academy Of Public Safety & Security

While all eyes were on the Christina/Carney MOU, something big happened at Colonial School District’s Board of Education meeting.  Their Board discussed supporting the struggling charter school, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, and eventually attempting to become their authorizer in the coming year.  Meanwhile, DAPSS is still under formal review with the Delaware Department of Education. Continue reading “Colonial School District Aims To Become Charter Authorizer For Delaware Academy Of Public Safety & Security”

DAPSS Teacher Mark Giansanti Passes Away

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security lost one of their own yesterday.  Mark Giansanti, a history teacher at the New Castle charter school, passed away.  The school released the following post on their Facebook account today.

To the Parents and Guardians of Academy Cadets:

The entire Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security staff and cadet body experienced a sudden and shocking loss on Monday, February 12th 2018. We were all saddened to learn of the death of one of our own, Staff Member Mark Giansanti. Mr. Giansanti passed away after a brief illness. Mr. G. as he was commonly known, was an exceptional teacher, colleague, mentor and friend who lived and loved all things history, especially military history. He will always be remembered as a man who valued education and expected the very best from all of his students in the classroom and in life. Mark was especially fond of the bond that he had with the members of the Tactical Operations Command for which he was an advisor.

The Academy will pull together and provide one another with support, guidance and an opportunity to grieve. At this moment of loss, we need to be here for each other and ask that everyone be considerate and supportive of one another as we deal with our loss. Grief counselors are being provided during Academy hours for cadets and staff members alike, providing emotional support and guidance. The Academy requests that our entire body keep Mark Giansanti, his children, his family, his loved ones and friends in their thoughts.

In Memoriam

July 5th 1963 – February 12th 2018

Mark Giansanti

The charter school, currently under formal review, has a public hearing this evening as part of that review.  It would be my hope the Delaware Dept. of Education reschedules this in light of the passing of this much-loved teacher.

The Behind The Scene Plans To Save DAPSS & What The DOE Isn’t Telling Us

On the surface, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is toast.  But many key players in the Delaware education world are busy making plans to make sure that outcome does not happen.  How do you get a school way below enrollment to survive?  You partner up and you do it fast! Continue reading “The Behind The Scene Plans To Save DAPSS & What The DOE Isn’t Telling Us”

State Board Of Ed Puts DE Academy of Public Safety & Security On Formal Review

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously put Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security on formal review for academic and financial reasons.  The 6-0 vote puts the New Castle charter school through a two-month review period where they have to meet with the Charter School Accountability Committee and go through public hearings.  The placement of a charter school to formal review status does not mean they are being shut down.  Putting a school under formal review is the process.  Any decision to leave a school open or shut it down takes place after a formal review and the findings that come out of that.

I knew their enrollment was low but that isn’t the only reason they went under the formal review knife.  Academics played a big part.  This is always tough for me to support because I loathe the use of standardized testing in punishing any school.  With DAPSS, they went from Smarter Balanced to the SAT in a two-year period.  In 2015, the SAT was remade to include Common Core.

Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will make her recommendation to the State Board of Education at their March 15th meeting and then the State Board votes on that recommendation.  The letter from Secretary Bunting notifying the school of their formal review status, the timeline, and their performance matrices for each category are included below.

Either the Charter School Office was ready for the State Board to vote for the formal review or they are able to predict the future, because the below PDF was created at 1pm yesterday, four hours before the State Board of Education began their meeting!  I would have to say the school’s founder, Charlie Copeland, is not happy about this!

The Kathleen Davies Mystery Deepens As Charter School Petty Cash Letters Come Out & Many Charters Get Sue-Happy

Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many.  Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night.  They showed some very extreme violations of state code.  As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies.  These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools:  Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler).  These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released.  But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring.  Now we can clearly see why.

Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive.  The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”?  That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.

We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well.  We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office.  It could be a combination of any of these people.  It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.

Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection.  That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett.  When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders.  Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity.  Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware.  Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican.  Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters.  I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.

 

Odyssey Charter School:

  1. petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
  2. 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
  3. 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
  4. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83

Delaware Military Academy:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
  3. checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
  4. 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
  5. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
  6. failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”

Charter School of Wilmington:

  1. had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
  5. had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
  6. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11

Sussex Academy:

  1. 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
  2. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95

 

So let me get this straight.  Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture?  And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters?  That were NEVER released to the public, until now?  And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky.  All charter school leaders and board presidents.  My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools.  As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office.  As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program.  But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:

We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible.  Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.

So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable.  She followed the procedure.  Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless.  Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock.  A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well.  But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner.  And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky?  How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law?  Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner?  This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.

This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware.  They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues.  We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb.  One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas.  They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders.  They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that.  If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.

This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula.  I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course.  As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit.  They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen.  Which they did.  Delaware is a very corrupt state.  If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked.  There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt.  If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.

But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit.  One Kathleen Davies.  The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections.  One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS.  While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed.  Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions.  NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out.  It had to disappear.  We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires.  But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe.  It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements.  But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies.  Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact.  I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.

Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office.  This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.

She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.

Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor.  What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts.  By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year.  There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.

Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.

All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law.  But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school.  Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether.  Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this.  Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way.  As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September.  That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.

At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies.  If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here.  This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:

  • 515 Oversight and revocation process.

(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.

(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner.  Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware.  Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing.  Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality.  They are what outside interests want.  These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.

This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity.  As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this.  As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors?  I believe it is time to find out.  It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances.  Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware.  If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.

In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:

Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell

Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos

Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli

Which Charters are Suing Christina and the Delaware DOE?

Yes, a group of Delaware charters are trying to strike gold over the charter funding issue.  Which charters?  Newark Charter School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, First State Montessori Academy, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Gateway Charter School, Great Oaks, Kuumba Academy, MOT Charter School, Odyssey Charter School, Providence Creek Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School.  As well, there are a handful of parents suing on behalf of their minor children.  Below are the complaints filed against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  There is also a motion to expedite proceedings.  I have not had time to fully read these, but I will after the ESSA Discussion Group meeting tonight.  This is going to turn Delaware education on its ear!

State Board of Education Approved Modifications For DAPSS, DE Design-Lab, First State Montessori, & Prestige Academy

The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.

Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.

First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.

Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.

Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.

With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Charter Modification Update: DAPSS, DE Design-Lab & First State Montessori Get Thumbs Up From DOE

Grand_Central_Station_Inside

Three of the five charters that submitted major modification requests to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education got the green light today.  The Charter School Accountability Committee held their final meetings with the three schools today.  All three received a recommendation of approval from the committee.  The State Board of Education will make the final decision at their March meeting.

Two other schools that submitted major mods have meetings tomorrow with the CSAC.  Prestige Academy has their last meeting and Academia Antonia Alonso has their first.  Another school, Odyssey Charter School, submitted a minor modification for enrollment changes but Secretary of Education Godowsky exercised his authority to give them the CSAC treatment.  They also meet with the CSAC tomorrow.

Should the State Board approve all these modifications, many students will be in flux next year.  First State Montessori will increase their enrollment significantly.  Two other charters submitted minor modifications for up to 15% increases: Great Oaks and Kuumba Academy.  They only need Secretary approval and not the State Board.  Prestige, Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, and Delaware Design-Lab will decrease their enrollment.  Academia Antonia Alonso will actually move their location from the Community Education Building.  This is on top of Delaware Met closing in January and Delaware College Prep closing at the end of this school year.  In December, Red Clay’s board approved a modification for Delaware Military Academy to start increasing their enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year.  Who needs a freeze on new charter applications when the Delaware DOE becomes Grand Central Station for Wilmington charter school students?