The first time I experienced the Marcia Brady of Delaware was at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 last spring. She spoke in opposition to the bill to the ire of many parents and teachers across Delaware. Courtney Fox is the Head of School at First State Montessori Academy. As the below Charter School Accountability Committee report shows, this school can do no wrong. Marcia Brady, the oldest sister on the Brady Bunch, could also do no wrong. This caused her younger sisters to envy and disdain her. Such is the way of Delaware education at times. There is always a bright star in the crowd. And the comments from Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network really wanted to make me heave! But is all it appears to be at the groovy school? Below is CSAC’s initial report, followed by a very interesting letter from a company I’ve written about before on here, and finally the public comments received for this modification request to increase their enrollment and to take over the Del Met building. The last public comment raises some serious eyebrows, including my own…
As revealed just half an hour ago, Providence Creek Academy was the latest in the never-ending “Delaware Charter School Financial Abuse Scandals”. They knew this report was coming out. You would think they would have shut up about charter school audit bills given this information. But no, they went on their Facebook page and encouraged parents of students to fight State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186, which would help prevent these scandals from happening.
I heard Providence Creek Academy’s Head of School, Chuck Taylor, was in attendance at last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, along with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, of which he serves as the President of their board. Unconfirmed, but on the rumor circuit is the PCA board voting to oust Chuck as soon as they get a new school leader because he is not qualified to run the school based on what they want in a school leader. The school has been without an official head of school since Chuck “resigned” back in 2013. The current principal, Audrey Erschen, has been around this whole time but the board at PCA seems to be very loyal to her, despite family members causing problems at the school in the Fall of 2014. The DOE and the State Board of Education, fully aware of some of these financial abuses and that the school was under investigation, renewed PCA’s charter last month. While the school told the Charter School Accountability Committee about how they have improved financial control through all of this, they were not exactly forthcoming about the nature of the abuses. I even congratulated them on their supposed transparency based on what I knew, which wasn’t even close to what was in this report.
This article will disgust you. It disgusted me when I read their latest tax form, filed in July of this year. The Rodel Foundation and all their education propaganda. I have a new take on this. We need to boycott anything associated with Rodel. That means the Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and yes, I’m going to go there. The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. Why? Because after the Budingers, who owned Rodel Inc. back in the day, Tony Allen is listed on the board of Rodel. Dan Rich, the University of Delaware employee who is involved in all things WEIC, also sits very comfortably on the board of the Vision Coalition.
$343,000 a year. For one man. That is twice what Mark Murphy made as Secretary of Education. It’s $126,000 more than the highest paid State of Delaware employee in education (who just so happens to be enjoying his obsession with the Vision Coalition these days). How many starting teachers could we get with that? Ten? How about we take his salary and give every student in Delaware an extra $100 in funding. I know, they are a “non-profit” company. Of course they are. How could they ever make a profit with just over $900,000 going to four people’s salary?
So who benefited from Rodel’s “expertise” in education on this tax form?
Parthenon Group: $700,000 (listed as consultants Rodel pays to do consulting work)
Aspen Institute: $175,000
Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee $53,600
Delaware Charter Schools Network $30,000
Delaware Public Policy Institute $50,000
First State Military Academy $75,000
Great Oaks Foundation $75,000
Hope Street Group $10,000
Innovative Network For Communities $7,500
Innovative Schools Development Corporation $741,688
Latin American Community Center $15,000
Leadership Delaware Inc. $10,000
Music Associates of Aspen Inc. $30,000
National Public Education Support Fund $10,000
New Castle County Vo-Tech School District $13,451
Sustainable Settings $7,500
Teach For America Inc. $100,300
Teach Plus Inc. $7,500
The Delaware Met $75,000
The Partnership Inc. $7,500
Third Way Foundation $10,000
Vision Network $95,000
The ones in bold are the ones that really stand out for me. That is an awful lot of money going to Innovative Schools. But what puzzles me the most is the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District. Looking back at their prior year tax forms, they have frequently given money to that district or schools within the district.
In terms of hedge fund activity, this tax form does NOT have the Rodel-Pebbles AA Multi-Strategy Hedge Fund, which I wrote in great detail about last year. In that article, for their Tax Form 990, the amount in the fund was $158,071. For the other two hedge funds they invest in, Hirtle Multi-Strategy Hedge Funds and Hirtle- Private Equity Funds, those amounts were $2,590,421 and $1,725,911. A year later, those amounts are $2,710,070 and $1,636,033. So if they cashed out the Rodel-Pebbles Hedge Fund, it looks like they invested $30,000 more in hedge funds for this tax year. Like last year, their hedge fund activity is in “off-shore accounts” in the Caribbean or Central America. For this tax year they invested over $6.9 million in these off-shore accounts, an increase of $2.9 million more than in their tax form filed last year. Their net assets by the end of the year were $27,700,235 which was an almost $1 million dollar loss compared to the previous year, in which their assets went down $1.45 million compared to the year before. Yet Dr. Herdman’s salary keeps going up each year because they do a “survey” to see how other similar non-profits pay their CEOs. This is corporate education reform. Where traditional public schools lose money each year while the 1% get infinitely richer. And our state allows this by continuing this charade.
Now when Dr. Paul Herdman first started with The Rodel Foundation of Delaware back at the end of 2004, he was making a little over $168,000 a year with benefits and travel expenses. Now that has mushroomed to $343,000. A $175,000 increase. And this is for their 2013 tax year! I’m sure it is even more now.
Delaware, this is Rodel. A company that is a non-profit that invests in off-shore hedge funds and their CEO receives more income than anyone in education in Delaware. Remember, they sell a product, like any company does. The product is designed to make them rich. It’s a business. They could care less how your individual child is doing. They care about their bottom line. So every time you go to the latest annual Vision party, every time you let them take your personal information so you can go to one of their events, or you attend an Imagine Delaware Forum on education that they sponsor, remember it is a big advertisement. Rodel owns Delaware. They own the Governor, they own the DOE, they own the Delaware Charter School Network, Innovative Schools, and it looks like the two main people on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.
If Rodel really cared about education in Delaware, they would be donating money to the school districts that need funds the most, to help out with classroom sizes. This is a company that has $27 million in assets. And it sits there, every year, going through investments and hedge funds and even though it slowly loses a little bit each year, it’s not enough. I don’t see Rodel donating funds to Red Clay or Christina. I see a hell of a lot of charter schools, and companies that support them. And that one school district where a certain Interim Secretary of Education comes from. Where a soon to be ex-US Secretary of Education visited one of the “most improved” high schools in the state twice which just happens to be in the same district.
When Rodel offers these “grants” to charters, think tanks, and charter friendly organizations, it isn’t out of the kindness of their heart. It is an investment. It is saying, if the amount is high enough, we now own you. Do as we say. Don’t rock the boat. Oppose all legislation we don’t like. We know Rodel and the Delaware Charter Schools Network are two of the biggest lobbyists in Delaware. It’s not for the kids. It’s for money. So Paul Herdman can get an increase in his salary every year. Don’t get me wrong, he works hard. Destroying public education doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over a long period of time, and he has been very proficient at it for over ten years now.
Boycott Rodel. These are the things I would like to see happen. DSEA and Delaware PTA get the hell out of anything Rodel/Vision Coalition related. Tony Allen resigns from the Rodel board. Dan Rich resigns from Vision. The Delaware Department of Education immediately ends any contracts with Rodel that are not listed for public viewing. They end any business relationship with Rodel. For citizens of Delaware, please do not support this organization. They have been selling a line of crap for over ten years and it needs to stop. The only way to do that is to stop listening. Do not legitimize their money-making agendas. If they put an ad in the paper or a letter to the editor, write a complaint to the News Journal. If you are worried about the Delaware Business Roundtable and how that could effect Delaware, don’t worry, Rodel does the books for their Education Committee.
If the leaders of organizations who work with Rodel and the Vision Coalition don’t want to leave, that’s okay. Elections can change that with certain organizations. And do not buy for one second that “Personalized Learning” is the wave of the future. That’s what Rodel wants you to think. Back in 2006, they predicted state standards and tests designed around those. They envisioned a future, with the able assistance of then Treasurer of Delaware Jack Markell, where all children would be able to compete with their brethren in China and Japan and India and Singapore. Millions upon millions of dollars filling the pockets of folks like Dr. Paul Herdman and Fred Sears III. For what? Have we learned nothing?
This article is going to tick off a lot of people. Good. It wasn’t meant to put a smile on anyone’s face. It was meant to piss off those who would sacrifice our children’s future so companies like Rodel can live high off the hog. You know exactly who you are, and the charade has to end. Either you support public education or you don’t. There is no middle ground. Not anymore.
For the average citizen, remember this. You hold immense power in your hands and voice. Your hands can write a Refuse The Test letter. Your voice can tell other parents to do the same. Paul Herdman was scared out of his mind with the opt-out movement. He had no idea how much power he does not have over people. This is why he spoke at the Senate Education Committee meeting against House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation. He knows that if parents don’t let their kids take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, his empire falls apart. Very fast. Let’s do it. Let’s say screw the CEO and take back education. Because if you think for one second it is your child’s education, you are dead wrong. This is Rodel’s education, sold to them with your taxpayer money and the more than willing voice of your Governor.