Auditor Report On 9/30 Enrollment Counts Shows Inconsistency Statewide & Major Reporting Issues At 4 Delaware Charters

Four Delaware charter schools will have to return funds based on 28 students they received funding for from the state based on not meeting specific criteria for those students.  Yesterday, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released the final report of a statewide audit on the September 30th Enrollment Counts which determines how many units a school gets for salaries, energy costs and equalization funds.  The report does an excellent job of describing how funding in Delaware education actually works without needing an advanced accounting degree to understand.  The report showed the biggest problem is inconsistency with the districts and charters on how to submit the data as well as no specific requirements for the school or district unit count coördinator to even attend the training offered by the Delaware Department of Education.

Four charter schools were specifically called out for not having the proper documentation for early Kindergarten entrance students.  This is for students who are considered gifted and talented and are not the age of 5 by August 31st, as required by state law.  The Auditor of Accounts found 28 students at these four charters should not have been counted in the unit count and the schools should return the funding they received for those students.  The charter schools were EastSide (11 students), Family Foundations Academy (12 students), Kuumba Academy (3 students), and Delaware College Prep (2 students).  Given the fact that EastSide and FFA are run by the same executive director, Dr. Lamont Browne, and that over 82% of these unlawful unit count claims are occurring at the schools he runs is very troubling.  As well, the Board President is the same at both schools: Charles McDowell.  FFA already had an audit report released late last year based on the prior school leaders massive fraud and theft of school funds.  Kuumba Academy was spotlighted with irregularities based on an inspection report released last year.  Red flags came up over unauthorized compensation for the Head of School and a custodian.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed by their authorizer, Red Clay Consolidated School District, and will close at the end of this school year.  They were also mentioned in the same audit inspection as Kuumba with unauthorized reimbursements to their Board President.

One thing the report showed, which I was not aware of, was the role special education service providers play in the unit counts.  According to the below report, providers such as speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, school psychologists and other providers are based on the following:

1 unit per 57 Regular Education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, Basic Special Education students 4th-12th grade, and Regular Education students 4th-12th grade

1 unit per 5.5 Intensive Special Education students

1 unit per 3 Complex Special Education students

If there is one thing I have heard in Delaware it is how schools are unable to provide these services consistently, especially for basic special education students.  This is an even bigger problem with having the unit formula be the same for Kindergarten to 3rd grade basic and regular students.  But all students in basic special education from Kindergarten to 12th grade are not given any advantage over regular students in receiving these services.  This is a major problem and I would urge any legislator to remedy this problem immediately!

The report also highlighted the role Innovative Schools plays in enrollment counts.  The Auditor of Accounts felt Innovative Schools should not be the agency conducting the enrollment counts but the school unit count coördinator.  They advised either way the accountability falls on the school leader.  Several charters and a scattering of traditional public schools were mentioned in the report in various sections covering details such as training participation for the unit-count system and having a clear policy manual on the process.  The full report is below.

Paging Matt Denn… Should Ex Charter Leaders Alleged To Have Abused Funds Have “Finance Professional” On Their Linkedin Account?

CharterFraud

Not long ago, Sean Moore was at the top of the world.  He was a co-Head of School at Family Foundations Academy.  Together with Dr. Tennell Brewington they ran a successful school.  To the outside world, the school was doing well.  It wasn’t at the top of the heap, but it wasn’t at the bottom either.  In the Fall of 2014, everything changed when FFA had their charter renewal.  Everything came out: the parent complaints, the conflicts of interest between the school leaders and members of the board, and of course, the financial abuse.

A little over a year later, and Sean Moore has the term “finance professional” on his Linkedin account.  According to the Auditor of Account’s report, released over a month ago, Moore and Brewington still haven’t paid back all the funds they owe the school.  But Moore was able to have enough funds to start his own business, Planet Beach Contempo Spas.  He is listed as the franchise owner.  Aside from his time at FFA, from July 2008-January 2015, most of Moore’s experience has been in business.  In fact, twenty years ago he was an auditor himself!

With all that business experience for twelve years prior to FFA, why would he risk it all by embezzling funds from a charter school?  This is just a guess, but I would surmise he was doing it for so long without getting caught he most likely thought he never would be.  Like many citizens in Delaware, I am wondering when some type of charges will be announced against Moore and the other charter embezzlers.  Academy of Dover’s Ex Leader Noel Rodriguez, Brewington, Moore, and just added to the list last week, Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy.  And we haven’t heard anything about those with lower offenses but still considered to be abuse of funds by the State Auditor’s office: Sally Maldonado with Kuumba Academy and the executive director and board president at Delaware College Prep (who will be shutting down at the end of the school year as Red Clay’s board did not renew their charter in December).

I find it ironic Moore is praising his business acumen and starting his own business.  I’ve said this a million times, but if it was the average citizen, we would be in jail by now…