Delaware DOE To Form Working Group For Charter Schools & Organizational Framework

Move over AFWG, there’s a new, uhm, FWG coming to town!  The Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE looks like they are gearing to change the organizational part of the charter school Performance Framework.  This is mighty interesting, and I have to wonder how this came about.  Perhaps many of the events going on at some of the newer charters that opened this year?  Like Delaware Met, First State Military Academy, Freire, and Delaware Design Lab High School.  This could cover a lot of issues several Delaware charters go through, such as board transparency, charter heads of school going crazy with money, and leadership which is vitally needed at the newer charters.  Maybe Kilroy’s lifelong dream of having charters record their board meetings will come out of this!

Here’s the way I look at this: charters aren’t going anywhere and neither are traditional school districts.  Since charters are public schools but get more leeway for how they do things, they are also under the microscope more.  I’ve actually heard some charters say they would prefer more accountability so they can ensure they are doing the right thing and not wind up on formal review.  Charters in Delaware have had a few rough years, starting with Pencader.  I will have to assume these are going to be public meetings.  The last things charter schools in Delaware need are closed-door secret meetings.  If I know Jennifer Nagourney at the DOE, this will be very transparent.  She has done an excellent job with transparency of charters on the DOE website.

My suggestion?  They may not want to make this JUST charter related members.  Having the perspective of a traditional school district financial administrator, board member or superintendent could potentially help charters to see things in different ways they may not be used to.  And it would go a long way towards the charter-district collaboration that was discussed at the Vision Quest thing today.  Just my two cents!  Here comes the OFWG!

Call for Organizational Framework Working Group Members

The DDOE is convening a working group to review the Organizational component of the Performance Framework. The Organizational Framework Working Group (OFWG) will review the existing Organizational Framework against national models and requirements under Delaware law. The OFWG will also identify areas of potential further improvement and potentially make recommendations for future changes.  
Who We Are Looking For: A total of 10-12 participants from Delaware charter schools (may include school leaders, board members, administrators, parents, teachers, and community partners)
Time Commitment: A maximum of 6 3-hour meetings from November to February (exact times and dates to be determined when group formed)
Deadline to Express Interest in Participating: November 13 
How to Express Interest in Participating: Complete the form below:
Name *

  • E-mail *
  • Charter School *
  • Affiliation *

    Charter School Leader
    Board Member
    Charter School Staff
    Parent
    Community Partner
    Other

  • Why do you think you would a good addition to the Organizational Framework Working Group?
  • Submit

Serious Questions About Delaware Secretary of Education & Charter Modification Approvals

I was told last week by Alison May, the Public Information Officer for the Delaware Department of Education, that any change in teacher evaluation is considered a minor modification for Delaware charter schools.  If this is the case, why are there no applications shown online?  The DOE website clearly lists applications for other major and minor modifications, but for Freire and the Wilmington Charter Collaborative (EastSide, Prestige, Kuumba, & Thomas Edison), it does not show any of these.  At least not for the change in teacher evaluation.

The state law is very unclear about this aspect in relation to charter schools.  The code states all schools must use DPAS-II unless they have been otherwise approved for a different teacher evaluation system.  A minor modification is a change in school practices that does not go against their charter.  Since the DOE doesn’t list Freire’s actual charter, it is very hard to see if this meets the criteria for a minor or major modification.  And still, the DOE needs to be putting any application, from any school or district, up on their website.  But Freire seems to get a pass for some reason as their original application is not listed on the Delaware Charter Schools page on the DOE website.

So the unanswered question is this: Can Mark Murphy, in one of his last acts as Delaware Secretary of Education (his last official day is September 30th), approve an alternate evaluation system for Freire without consent from the State Board of Education?  I would assume a teacher evaluation part of a Delaware charter school would be embedded in their actual charter.  And was the approval for the Wilmington Charter Collaborative legal as well?  If anyone has the answers to this, with actual state law to prove it, please let me know.  I have searched extensively for this but I am unable to find it.  And it’s not like the DOE is actually being proactive and forthcoming with information these days, unless it’s to cover their own ass.  And the even bigger question, if it is proven this is a minor modification, should it be considered a major modification?

Academy of Dover In Serious Trouble Over Noel Rodriguez’ P-Card Splurges & The Schools $2 Million Dollar+ Judgment

Academy of Dover was placed on Formal Review by the Delaware State Board of Education last Thursday, April 16th.  According to the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee, the reasons for the request were in regards to potential financial mismanagement and academic performance.  It was added the school is in the process of ongoing litigation, which they would not reveal in the meeting nor in a group with the media afterwards what this litigation was in regards to.  However, after some digging, I have found out the reason why.

But first, let’s take a look at the transcription from the State Board of Education’s decision last week: Continue reading

Prestige Academy: Formal Review for Enrollment & Academic, Academy of Dover: Academic & Financial, Freire & DE Design Lab: Low Enrollment

The four Delaware charter schools being considered for formal review have a multitude of reasons for this potential designation.  Prestige, Freire and Delaware Design Lab all had very low enrollment figures by the April 1st deadline.  Prestige had 59%, Freire had 35%, and Delaware Design Lab had 46%.  Prestige Academy is also under the hot seat for academic performance.  Academy of Dover is in trouble because of both financial reasons and academic performance.  From the Delaware State Board of Education Agenda for tomorrow’s board meeting:

Details

The Department of Education will request the Assent of the State Board of Education to place the following charter schools on formal review

Academy of Dover:
The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter, financial management, financial oversight, and academic performance.

The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review. If the State Board assents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.


Delaware Design Lab High School:
As of the April 1 enrollment deadline, the charter school had enrolled only 137 out of 300 students, or 46% of the approved enrollment. The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter and financial viability.
The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review.   If the State Board assents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

Freire Charter School:
As of the April 1 enrollment deadline, the charter school had enrolled only 78 out of 224 students, or 35% of the approved enrollment.  The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter and financial viability.
The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review.   If the State Board consents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

Prestige Academy:
As of the April 1 enrollment deadline, the charter school had enrolled only 186 out of 315 students, or 59% of the approved enrollment. The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter, financial viability, and academic performance.
The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review.  If the State Board assents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

The Probationary status of: Academia Antonia Alonso – All conditions have been met, and the school has demonstrated financial viability.

The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to discharge the charter from probation.   If the State Board assents, the charter school will be removed from probationary status and restored to good standing. 

Breaking News: Family Foundations Academy Under Financial Investigation With State Auditor

The crisis with Family Foundations Academy continues, and it’s looking real bad for them.  Attention is focused on Head of School Sean Moore.  After allegations by a parent that he bought two Mercedes Benz with state funds, as well as several other insinuations, including a very large lawsuit of the sexual nature, and increased usage of state p-cards, the Auditor of Accounts for Delaware is investigating the finances of the school.  And it looks like the school has hired an attorney.

As revealed by Kilroy yesterday, Family Foundations Academy had a financial forensic investigation done last February by a company called Auphsite Consulting & Advisory.  The report went over the use of purchase card transactions, also known as P-card purchases.  These are essentially credit card transactions.  When these are paid by state entities, they appear on Delaware Online Checkbook under the initials PCA instead of a check number.

This isn’t the first time Sean Moore has been called out on the use of p-cards.  In 2011, a News Journal article written by Nichole Dobo detailed the high use of p-cards by administrators and school districts.  She even interviewed Sean Moore:

At Family Foundations Academy Charter School, numerous trips were paid for with the state credit card, and that bill was then paid with fundraising money, said Sean Moore, a co-director at the school. For instance, one trip was to a 76ers basketball game. A parent group at the school raised money so parents and students could attend the game. It’s not practical, for instance, to ask parents to bring “a handful of ones” to pay for Sixers tickets, he said.

The Sixers, huh?  More on that later!  The full article from the News Journal can be found here: http://archive.delawareonline.com/article/20110206/NEWS03/102060344/Delaware-schools-hidden-spending

Earlier in this school year, Noel Rodriguez, the former head of school for Academy of Dover, “resigned”.  However, several people told me it was due to misuse of the schools p-card.  While this was never made public, and Academy of Dover would not state the reason for Rodriguez’ “resignation”, their board minutes last month stated the p-cards have been taken away from the school.

Back to the independent audit questioned the high number of p-card transactions done by the two Head of School leaders, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington.  The report found that out of the $116,309.45 in p-card purchases from July 1, 2012 to February 21, 2014, $3,908.85 was unallocated from what are deemed as valid school expenses.

The report recommended the school no longer use the WSFS bank account attached to this p-card, but the school did not heed that advice as p-card transactions continue on the State of Delaware Online Credit Card Transactions website through November 26th of this year with $38,849.41 in charges just for that month alone.  While most were valid educational expenses, some were questionable, including a Comcast Spotlight PHL charge for $8,670.00.  While Comcast charges are sure to arise in the state of Delaware due to cable costs, Family Foundations Academy was the only one to have a charge from Comcast Spotlight PHL.  In fact, out of all the Comcast charges for all of the state entities, the next highest was a little over $3900 for The Hospital For The Chronically Ill.  But to give the school the benefit of the doubt, maybe they were just really behind on their monthly bill.  I saw what looked like a regular monthly charge from the end of September.  But then in July, there were two transactions, one for $7,620 and another one for $8,670.

I checked to see what was happening at the Comcast Center in Philadelphia in July.  Nothing popped up that could warrant those kinds of charges.  But then I remembered the talk about the whole board and the two heads of school being in a fraternity.  After some extensive googling, I remembered that several members of the board belong to a fraternity called Kappa Alpha Psi.  They actually have a business called Kappa Alpha Psi Fraterity, Inc., based out of Philadelphia.  On their Google Groups page, they have an event coming up on January 5th, 2015 for a ’76ers game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.  You can even get tickets on the Google Groups website, right here, by clicking on the ’76ers game for January 5th vs. the Cavaliers: http://www.wilmingtonkappas.com/Events/

Who is running the paypal site it brings you to?  Hmm, I have to wonder.

In the report there were numerous charges that both Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington had as costs for the school.  But many of these costs seem very high.  I went over them with a few people, and they all agreed these seem to be extremely high costs for a charter school of 800 students.

Delaware Online Checkbook for Family Foundations for FY 2015:

Auphsite Holding Company: $85,081.96, 21 payments

Antonio’s Lawn Service: $14,335, 5 pmts

Baronhr Healthcare LLC: $3627, 6 pmts

Black Magic Seal Coating and Asphalt Inc. $4290, 1 pmt

Cherry Bros LLC $7194.65

County Insulation Co. $20,000.00 (company is with other schools, but this is over 3 times higher than payments from other districts)

Crestmoor Swim Club $1750.00 only other one is Del Tech Stanton Campus

Global Equipment Company Inc.: many other districts, but 2nd highest is $1-$2k, FFA is at $5+k

Groupcast LLC: $3,670, 2 pmts., MOT also has 1 pmt

Rapid Renovation and Repair $3,235, 2 pmts

Rosanne Tray Inc. $11,789.50, 2 pmts

SB and Company LLC $16,000, 3 pmts, ****Providence Creek, 1 pmt $7,500.00***

System Liquidation Inc. $14,300, 2pmts

With many parents reporting many bizarre activities going on at the school, with the 90 day suspension of co-head of school, Dr. Tennell Brewington, and conflicts of interest resulting in administrative positions and board placements, it seems as if this school falling apart.  I would love if “Dee” would comment on these articles!  It has become painfully obvious there has been no financial oversight for years, and the Delaware DOE needs to be held accountable as well.  As Kilroy reported yesterday, the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee is required to have a representative from the Delaware DOE present at each meeting, but if Family Foundations Academy hasn’t had a committee until recently, where is the disconnect?

Numerous names from the DOE are mentioned in the complaints document.  When state funds are used to pay $155,000.00 to an attorney’s office, is there anything flagged for that high of  an amount?  There are way too many questions here, and the parents definitely wants answers.

More Family Foundations Complaints Sent To The DE DOE Charter School Office & State Board

Special thanks to Kilroys for getting this damning information about Family Foundations out to the public (DOE should have first).  The DOE Charter School Office and State Board have been the recipient of numerous complaints in regards to this charter school.  For the past two years, it has been a litany of complaints about teachers, administration and students regarding matters of sexual harassment, bullying, discipline, use of P-cards for personal use and so much more.  It’s all in here:

Why is the public first hearing about all of this now?  Why does it take Kilroy (who is awesome by the way) to release it before the DOE takes any action?  And you renewed their charter, knowing this entire history?  And Gateway, a school for special needs children, gets stabbed in the back by the Charter School Accountability Committee over test scores while you sit there knowing all these laws are being broken over at Family Foundations?  Are you out of your damn minds?  What’s it going to take DOE, huh?  In your quest for charter domination in Delaware, you have spit on the very foundation of education itself.  I can see several people that need to be removed immediately, starting with Mark Murphy himself.

It appears several of these items were sent to other organizations within Delaware’s government structure as well, including the Governor’s office.  Matthew Albright from the News Journal, why haven’t you or your paper written about any of this?  Your paper has never received one complaint from a parent at this school?  It’s like Animal House over there.