Seven Delaware Charter Schools Up For Renewal Next Fall!!!!

Every year, the Delaware State Board of Education gets to vote on charter school renewals.  This year, there are seven charter schools up for renewal.  I believe this is a record and will keep the Charter School Office busy from now until then.  But this year could be different for these renewals because of events going on the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education that are beyond their control. Continue reading “Seven Delaware Charter Schools Up For Renewal Next Fall!!!!”

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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…

Breaking News: State Board of Education President Dr. Dennis Loftus Resigning After A Year Of Service

A year ago, Governor Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus to take over as State Board of Education President.  Replacing Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Loftus served in the role for a year.  At the end of this month, sources tell me Dr. Loftus is resigning from the position.

No nomination for his replacement has been announced at this point.  As well, even though Donna Johnson officially resigned a couple of weeks ago, no replacement has been announced for the Executive Director role for the State Board of Education.  The State Board is still going through sunset review with that committee at Legislative Hall.

The State Board underwent many changes in the past year with four new members (including Loftus) and a now vacant role of Executive Director.  It doesn’t look like that facelift is going to stop any time soon with the resignations of their Board President and their Executive Director.  The State Board of Education is a different entity than the Delaware Department of Education.  Any State Board members would be nominated by the Governor and then have to go through a confirmation process with the Delaware Senate.  The only exception to that rule is the President which is picked solely by the Governor but there is no designated term for that role and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  In addition, the State Board themselves would pick a new Executive Director.

What is the reason for this massive amount of turnover?  In January long-time board member Pat Heffernan resigned unexpectedly after an explosive board meeting about the diploma bill.  Heffernan was deeply opposed to the legislation which would do away with certificates of performance or attendance for the most severe cognitively-challenged students.  Governor Carney signed the bill last month.  Other new members came about through prior board members ending their term.  But to have the President of the State Board resign after less than a year says something!

Delaware Teachers Will Have To Work Extra Hours To Make Up For Snow Days This Year

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education voted to forgive one snow day this year.  For Delaware public school teachers, they are required to work 188 days a year.  With the forgiveness of one day, that number comes down to 187.  But many schools had at least five snow days or more this year due to the winter storms.  Even though two of those snow days were State of Emergency issued by Governor John Carney, Secretary Bunting only put forth one forgiveness day to the State Board.

As a result, teachers could have extra days after the school year.  There are other ways teachers could make up that time according to DSEA President Mike Matthews:

How snow buyback works is if a district needs to make up 21 hours (or three days) then the District can choose how that’s done (usually in consult with their local union and School board). Maybe they will add one day to the teacher year and have the staff make up 14 hours of APPROVED outside-the-regular-school day activities like staying after to volunteer at a family literacy night or maybe they will count that IEP meeting that happened before or after school as make up time. The state requires that every employee keep a log of their time to show they worked to make up those days lost.

Depending on contracts, some teachers could use personal hours to make up for that lost time according to Matthews.

For Delaware public school students, most districts and charters exceed the 1,060 hours students must attend school for each year.  Some have already canceled a day off meant for professional development for teachers to make up for that lost time.  So it is not anticipated that students will have their school year extended.

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?

Sussex Montessori School Approved To Open In 2019

The Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the charter school application for the Sussex Montessori School this evening with a 6-0 vote.  The second charter school in Sussex County will open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.  However, there were some conditions for the approval and should the charter school not meet those conditions, their charter would be revoked.

The two big conditions dealt with student enrollment and an actual facility.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the charter school must have 80% of their enrollment by May 1st, 2019.  As well, they must have an actual facility in place.  Currently, the school has not made a firm decision on a building or even an actual location in Sussex County.

The enrollment decision could be tricky.  In the past, as was seen in the case of Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School in 2015, they were not at their 80% enrollment numbers by May 1st of 2015, a mere four months before they opened.  This caused both to go under formal review.  While they met those numbers and escaped charter revocation, they did go through the formal review process first.  Bunting’s decision to revoke the charter if that 80% is not met caused Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett to immediately question the decision.  I will have to check Delaware state code on this one!

This will be the second Montessori charter school in Delaware.  First State Montessori Academy, located in downtown Wilmington, opened in 2014.

Breaking News: Donna Johnson Resigns From Delaware State Board of Education

Donna Johnson has been the Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education for the past nine years.  Very soon, she will be exiting that post to begin a new position in Washington D.C.  She will be joining the Office of State Superintendents in May.

I know Donna has been a huge figure on this blog over the years and I’ve thrown quite a few punches at her over the years.  But on a personal level she has always been very kind to me despite those punches and even helped me out on a few occasions.  So the best of luck to Donna Johnson in her new job!  Meanwhile, the wheels on the Delaware education bus keep spinning round and round!

Donna’s last State Board of Education will be next Thursday, April 19th.  No word on a replacement for her at this point.

 

Earl Jaques And His Education Hunger Games Need To End

I reached out to State Rep. Earl Jaques and his legislative aide today regarding the massive bomb Earl laid last night at the School District Consolidation Task Force meeting.  The response was the polar opposite of what was said last night. Continue reading “Earl Jaques And His Education Hunger Games Need To End”

Delaware Department Of Education Salaries Over $100,000

As per the Delaware Department of Education website, the DOE employs 241 people. 66 of them make over $100,000 based on a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted to them on February 28th.  This is eight more than what the News Journal reported four years ago.  At that time, the DOE had extra employees as part of their limited Race To The Top federal grant. Continue reading “Delaware Department Of Education Salaries Over $100,000”

State Board of Education Has A New Member

Either I fell asleep at the wheel or this happened very fast, but the Delaware State Board of Education has a new board member.  This new person replaces State Board member Patrick Heffernan. Continue reading “State Board of Education Has A New Member”

State Board Saves The Day For Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

The State Board of Education, with a 5-0 vote and 1 abstention, declared Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will not close.  The State Board’s vote gives DAPSS another year to prove themselves.  But there are new conditions.

The Charter School Accountability Committee recommended the school stay open for another year as long as they have a student enrollment of 200 students by May 1st, along with other conditions including utilizing their partnership with the Colonial School District.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting agreed with CSAC’s recommendation with many revisions.  She agreed with everything the CSAC recommended but wanted to know by June 29th if Colonial or Las Americas ASPIRAS would help to fill vacant staff positions and a transition plan should the school choose to make Colonial it’s .  This must be in agreement with Colonial.  If the board doesn’t meet all their conditions by June 29th, their charter will automatically be revoked.  Bunting wants more transparency with the whole process.  She also wants all teachers to be certified and the charter handed back to the Delaware DOE by mid-2019 so they can begin the transition to Colonial.  Bunting had a total of eight conditions.

State Board President Dennis Loftus requested monthly reports to the State Board.  His biggest concern was, if the school should close, that students would have enough time to transition to different schools by the new school year.  State Board member Wali Rushdan said he was satisfied with Bunting’s recommendation and this allayed many of his concerns about the staff being certified and highly qualified.  He expressed the need for a strategic plan, one of Bunting’s recommendations.  Executive Director Donna Johnson asked about the recommendation concerning Colonial and ASPIRA helping out with staffing vacancies.  Charter School Office Director Denise Stouffer clarified they would receive support by those highly qualified instructors from Colonial or ASPIRA.  Loftus wanted to make it clear that DAPSS would either transition to Colonial for charter authorization or they would cease to exist.  What happens if Colonial changes their mind?

I predicted this would be the outcome but I was happy to see Secretary Bunting add additional recommendations.

 

Highlights From The January State Board of Education Meeting

Aside from the controversial Special Education Strategic Plan presentation and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security going under formal review, what else happened at the January State Board of Education meeting?  This is what goes out to legislators and all those important education folks in the state!

January State Board Meeting Highlights

The State Board of Education held its Regular Monthly Board Meeting on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

All materials and presentations from the meeting can be accessed on the online meeting platform posted within each month’s agenda as posted on our website (www.destateboarded.k12.de.us ).

  • Here is a direct link to the agenda complete with links and attached documents related to presentations and other items before the Board:  SBE Monthly Meeting Agenda

The audio recording from the meeting is now posted on the State Board website.  An index of the recording with live links by section is copied below.

 

·         Board President, Dr. Dennis Loftus,  discussed his attendance at the Governor’s State of the State address earlier in the day and provided a recap of the key points involving education.  The Executive Director presented her report which included discussion of the latest publication by NASBE which focuses on Early Learning. A link to the publication as well as a few other articles regarding accountability plans across all 50 states according to ESSA plans and an interesting approach to chronic absenteeism. Her posted report called “News Updates and Information” is provided monthly.  There will soon be a link added to the home page for easier access to these reports and local and national articles related to education issues which are provided for review by the Board and public. Ms. Johnson then updated the Board on the work related to the Literacy Campaign and highlighted the upcoming meetings for the steering committee and subcommittees of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

·         Secretary Bunting provided a comprehensive report to the Board which included details about several school visits and opportunities to engage with members of the business community and other policy leaders,  meetings with school administrators, educators, and students in which she had been involved throughout the month.  These visits included meeting with the School District Consolidation Task Force Academic and Student Needs Committee where they discussed the state’s EL Strategic Plan. She also had the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievement of 4 schools for Continued Excellence and identified 15 as Recognition Schools. Recognition Schools receive a banner to display in their school as well as $8,000 to further advance learning at their schools. She highlighted her involvement at the P-20 Council, Governor’s Cabinet meeting, Family Service Council, and the G.E.A.R meeting.

·         The Board received a presentation from the 2018 DE State Teacher of the Year, Virginia Forcucci.  Following her presentation and discussion with the Board they honored her with the SBE Award of Excellence.

·         The Board received a presentation on the Special Education Strategic Plan from the co-chairs of the Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council, Dr. Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle. Board members discussed the development of the plan and asked questions regarding the goals and metrics within the plan. Additional information and resources from the presentation were provided on the agenda page for this item.

·         Department Regulations

o    Regulation 925: Children with Disabilities Subpart D, Evaluations, Eligibility Determination, Individualized Education Programs  was presented for final action.  There was discussion regarding the comments received from the GACEC and Statewide Disabilities Council as well as the fact that this change was only addressing one aspect of the regulation to align with federal requirements.  The Board was informed that a broader group of stakeholders are currently working on revisions to further update the rest of the regulation and that this regulation may be before them again with more comprehensive changes in the near future. A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mrs. Rutt and seconded by Dr. Whittaker. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).

o   Regulation 501: State Content standards  was presented for final action. The amendments included the addition of statewide K-12 Financial Literacy and Computer Science standards.  The public comment received as well as feedback received through the community engagement sessions held by the Department was shared with the Board. There was discussion regarding the date in regulation for adoption and how that was different from the full implementation date of these standards to be integrated and aligned with curriculum.  It was explained that the date in regulation is the date that the standards would officially become the state content standards and that the implementation of those standards into professional development for teachers and integrated and aligned with curriculum would follow a similar timeline trajectory has was used for the Next Generation Science standards.  A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mr. Heffernan and seconded by Mrs. Rutt. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).

o   Following the approval of Regulation 501, the Board took a moment to thank Mr. Michael Watson, Chief Academic Officer, for his many contributions to improving education for children in the state of Delaware.  It had been announced the prior month that this would be his final State Board meeting before leaving the department.  The Board recognized him for his service and awarded him the State Board’s Award of Excellence.

o   Regulation 1008 DIAA Junior High and Middle School Interscholastic Athletics and Regulation 1009 DIAA High School Interscholastic Athletics were presented to the Board for discussion.  These regulations are out for comment during the month of January and will be back before the Board in February for final action.  The DIAA Executive Director and legal counsel addressed questions from the Board members regarding the proposed changes which dealt with Officials organizations and Foreign Exchange and International Students’ eligibility.

·         The Board received public comment from two individuals commending them on the decision to approve regulation 501 and adopt statewide Computer Science standards for Delaware.

·         John Carwell, from the Charter School Office, presented the Department’s request to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.

o   At the December 18, 2014 meeting of the State Board of Education, the charter for DAPSS was renewed with the following conditions:

§  1. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Academic Framework for the 2014-15 school year; and

§  2. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Financial Framework for the 2014-15 school year.

o   In SY 2014/2015 Delaware implemented a new system of accountability known as the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) and was permitted by the U.S. Department of Education to use this school year as the year from which to measure academic achievement and progress.  Due to this waiver, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.

o   In SY 2015/2016, Delaware changed the academic assessment for high schools from Smarter Balanced to SAT.  Due to this change in academic assessment, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.

o   In SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet academic standards in three of the four DSSF metrics and showed a decline in both academic achievement and academic growth.

o   As for financial standards, in SY 2014/2015, SY 2015/2016, and SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet financial standards.

o   In 2015-2016, DAPSS was approved for a modification to decrease enrollment.  Despite this decrease, the school did not meet the 80% requirement for enrollment by May 1st for SY 2017-2018 enrolling only 77% of its projected population.   As of September 30, 2017, DAPSS enrolled 228 of their projected 340 students or 67% of their approved enrollment.   Since September 30, 2017, DAPSS’s enrollment has again declined.  The school currently has 217 students enrolled.

o   This is the third year that the school has shown a decline in enrollment going from 303 students in SY 2015/2016 to 217 students SY2017/2018.  With a 2018 graduating class of 47 students, 49 choice applications, and one withdrawal at the time of this report, it is doubtful that DAPSS will meet the Financial Framework standard this school year.

o   After considering these potential violations of its charter, the Department as approving authority, has determined that DAPSS should be submitted to formal review to determine whether the school is violating its charter and whether there are grounds for remedial measures.  The Department is seeking the assent of the Secretary and the State Board for this action.

·         The Secretary of Education following this outline of performance and concerns regarding the compliance with their charter stated, “Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security appears to have failed to meet the conditions of its charter renewal and should have the opportunity for a rigorous review of the school performance. Therefore, as Secretary of Education, I assent to placing Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.   In accordance with 14 Delaware Code Section 511(c), I seek the assent of the State Board of Education to the decision to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.”

·         Dr. Loftus asked for a motion to assent to the formal review of the charter for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  The motion was made by Mrs. Sorenson and seconded by Mr. Heffernan.  After discussion of the Board which involved discussing the process that is included during formal review the motion passed unanimously by voice vote.

·         The charter office also provided in its monthly update, which was posted on the SBE website for information a timeline for the review of the new application received to open a new charter school in Sussex county called Sussex Montessori as well as the major modification requested for Design Lab HS. The links to all of these were provided in the agenda item online.

·         The Professional Standards Board  had no items to bring before the SBE this month since their January meeting was cancelled due to snow.

·         The Board had no one signed up for general public comment

·         The Board received an update from its Deputy Attorney General  regarding two appeal requests that have had their hearing and are currently in the time window in which either party is able to submit responses to the hearing officer’s recommendation. Both of those appeals will come before the Board for action at the February meeting.

The next regular monthly meeting of the State Board is scheduled for

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The meeting will begin at 4:00 p.m. and the Board will enter Executive Session to discuss two disciplinary appeals and then will return to general session at 5:00pm 

January 18, 2018 – Delaware State Board of Education Audio Recordings

Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!

I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years.  I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things.  I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed.  But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before.  How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension.  Who is this person? Continue reading “Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!”

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!

Carney Cremates Christina

If you thought the arrow Delaware Governor John Carney shot through Christina School District’s heart was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet!  Plans are afoot.  And what will be left standing after Carney does his coup d’état will shock everyone! Continue reading “Carney Cremates Christina”

Wali Rushdan Gets Senate Approval For State Board of Education AND Explains His Time At Family Foundations

After a crucial Senate Executive Committee hearing, Wali Rushdan was given a unanimous Senate vote for the Delaware State Board of Education about an hour ago.

The Senate Executive Committee met with Rushdan right before the full Senate vote.  I must give props to State Senator Nicole Poore for tackling the elephant in the room.  She just came right out and asked Rushdan about his affiliation with the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors. Continue reading “Wali Rushdan Gets Senate Approval For State Board of Education AND Explains His Time At Family Foundations”

Wali’s Wax-On Wax-Off State Board Of Education Nomination

Despite what I reported last evening, the Senate Executive Committee is BACK ON TODAY at 3:30pm.  The meeting was canceled but now it is taking place again.  I don’t understand what all the confusion was.  The Senate Executive Committee will discuss Wali Rushdan’s nomination for the State Board of Education.  If it clears the committee, it will most likely go before the full Delaware Senate for a vote shortly after.

Senate Cancels Executive Committee Meeting, Only Item On Agenda Was Wali Rushdan

The Senate Executive Committee canceled their meeting tomorrow.  The only item on the agenda dealt with Governor John Carney’s nomination of Wali Rushdan for the State Board of Education.  The Executive Committee must clear any nominations before the Delaware Senate can vote as a body for that nomination.  No reasons were provided for the cancellation of the meeting.

Things that make you go hmmm…

Wali Rushdan And Sean Moore

Wali Rushdan and Sean Moore.  Friends.  Members of the same fraternity.  Moore, the former Head of School at Family Foundations Academy, convicted of theft and fraud.  Rushdan, a former member of the board at FFA, now nominated for a seat on the State Board of Education.  Moore, in prison.  Rushdan, an attorney at Fox Rothschild.  Moore and Rushdan.  What did Rushdan know about the situation at FFA?  Why has he erased his term on their board from his biography at Fox Rothschild?  Why was his bio redone the SAME day he got the nod from Governor Carney for the board seat with the State Board?  Did Governor Carney bother to check this matter out and ask the appropriate questions?  Who brought forth this nomination to Governor Carney?  Questions that need to be answered.  Questions our Delaware Senate need to ask right away.

 

Called It! Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Submitted For Formal Review!

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is in a very tight spot.  Very low enrollment is causing Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting to request a formal review of the charter school.  The State Board of Education will consider the recommendation at their meeting on Thursday, January 18th.

A formal review in January.  The timing on this is very interesting.  If a charter school doesn’t have 80% of their enrollment by the Spring, they can go on formal review for that.  They should have gone on formal review for low enrollment for a long time.  But when they failed to hit those enrollment numbers in their September 30th count, that can no longer be ignored.

For Delaware charter schools, this school does have a very unique purpose, to promote public safety and security (thus the name).  It is such an exact niche for students.  Perhaps it was a bit too specific.  Enrollment has steadily been going down for years.  It would take a miracle for them to get their enrollment up to at least 80% in the middle of a school year.  Low enrollment causes charters to lose a lot of money to the point where they are no longer financially viable.

This will be the first formal review in two years.  The last was Delaware STEM Academy who never opened due to low enrollment numbers.