The Delaware Primary election is one month away! And there are plenty of statewide and district races for Delaware citizens to vote on. I would go so far as to say the Primary is just as important as the General Election this year. The heat is on!
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.
Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school that serves a very high population of students with disabilities, held a special board meeting on April 4th, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a due process mediation. Can you spot the Delaware FOIA violation? It’s easy if you try!
Oops! That’s a big one! I’ve already filed the FOIA complaint to the Attorney General’s office. As a gentle reminder to all school boards in Delaware: you can discuss student related matters in executive session if it pertains to an issue, but you can’t vote on it in executive session. You need to come out of executive session and vote on it then. Now you can’t, and shouldn’t, say this is for x student’s due process mediation situation. But I would suggest giving a number for all action items at a board meeting. Many boards do this already. You can just say, as an example, “In the matter of 16-322, may I have a motion to vote on this action item?”, or something along those lines. It wasn’t that long ago that Brandywine School District’s board had the same issue which is causing issues for the district now as part of a lawsuit.
As well, I have also requested an opinion from the same office about public comment at public meetings. I have noticed some Delaware charter schools ask public comment to be submitted up to two weeks in advance before a board meeting. I don’t think that is in the spirit of the law. Any member of the public should have unfettered access to a public meeting and have the ability to give public comment without having to give advance notice.
Sorry Gateway! Don’t mean to call you out but if all of your board members have not received the full training on these matters I would definitely get on that!