Two Delaware charter schools are in violation of Delaware state law. The Delaware Department of Education is not putting them under formal review as they did two years ago when a few charter schools did not have 80% of their student enrollment for the next school year by April 1st of that calendar year. Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Delaware Design-Lab High School are under the 80% enrollment. Why no formal review? The Delaware State Code, under Title 14, is very clear about this type of situation:
(c)(1) On or before April 1 of each school year, a charter school shall have enrolled, at a minimum, 80% of its total authorized number of students, and the administrator of each charter school shall, pursuant to the requirements below, provide a written certification of that enrollment to the Department of Education and to the superintendent of each public school district in which 1 or more of the charter school’s students reside.
So what gives? The answer can be found in the State Board of Education agenda for their meeting today. The Charter School Office gives a monthly presentation to the State Board on all matters surrounding charter schools.
The law is the law. If they did the same to other charter schools, why are these two not going under the same scrutiny with their enrollment numbers? Is that fair to the charters that had to go through the formal review process two years ago? DAPSS numbers have been down for years. Had they not submitted a modification last year to decrease their enrollment numbers (which passed), they would have gone under formal review last year. Delaware Design-Lab was one of the schools under formal review two years ago for low enrollment numbers. Fair is fair, no matter what. While these numbers are not a train-wreck, they are in violation of what our legislators passed and was written into the state code.
Yesterday, at the State Board of Education meeting in Dover, it was announced Family Foundations Academy met the conditions of their six month probation and are now released from that status. Jennifer Nagourney with the Delaware Charter School Office did tell the state board that “we continue to be concerned about all the things we need to be concerned about and we are taking a heightened look at board governance and financial management.”
Family Foundations Academy terminated their former heads of school last winter after it was revealed they embezzled funds from the schools through use of procurement cards and other cards in the school’s name. As a result, the school went on formal review during their charter school renewal process. In March, the State Board put the school on probation when they emerged out of formal review status. Members of the board from EastSide Charter School joined the remaining FFA board, and EastSide’s Director, Dr. Lamont Browne, took over as school leader for FFA.
The school was approved for a major modification to move into the former Reach Academy for Girls building, and will transition their middle school to the other portion of those buildings next year. They were also approved for an alternate educator evaluation system, separate from the DPAS-II system. If I had to guess, I would assume they joined the Delaware Charter Collaborative, comprised of EastSide, Prestige Academy, Kuumba Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School. But this has not been confirmed.
The last remaining business from the controversy caused by the former leaders will come in the form of the Delaware State Auditor’s report on the investigative audit that began last December. The school’s forensic auditor determined Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington absconded approximately $90,000 in school funds, but what the State Auditor’s office finds is up in the air and until the report is released.
When did Freire Charter School of Wilmington apply for their own teacher evaluation system? Because their July 16th board minutes indicate the following: “Kelly Davenport indicated that Freire Wilmington applied to the Delaware Department of Education to use a teacher evaluation system of its own design, and was approved.” In looking at Delaware Department of Education notes on their website, I found absolutely nothing showing an application or any type of approval for this request.
Freire did have a major modification request earlier this year which was approved by the State Board of Education, but that was to decrease their student enrollment. Absolutely nothing was said about having an alternative educator evaluation system, separate from DPAS-II. Have we now entered a world where any charter school can get whatever they want with zero transparency at all from the Delaware Department of Education? It is starting to seem that way. I know Freire is a “chain” of charters coming from Philadelphia, but that does not exempt them from transparency at all. We all know about the fight to stop them from being at their current location, but nothing has stopped them even though the local neighborhood association did everything they could. Their former school director was even arrested after he was accused of accosting one of the protesters last March.
The mention of this in their board minutes can be found on Page 2 in the below document:
Early College High School isn’t the only Delaware charter school that has submitted a major modification request with the Delaware Department of Education to remove specific interest as an enrollment preference. Freire, scheduled to open in the 2015-2016 academic year, is also requesting this.
Once again, the Charter School Accountability Committee asked a charter school for a copy of the Federal Guidance (posted yesterday in the article before this one). Is the Delaware DOE not aware of this? How could they not be? The National Association of Charter School Authorizers had a presentation with the Delaware State Board of Education earlier this month and they were scheduled to present to the Enrollment Task Force but that meeting was canceled due to inclement weather.
At the Delaware State Board of Education meeting on 2/19/14, during the Charter School Review presentation by the Director of Charter Schools, Jennifer Nagourney, the subject of the modification requests for both schools came up. She did acknowledge both schools want compliance with Federal Guidance based on applying for Federal start-up grants, but nothing was discussed about this enrollment preference practice in Delaware or the wisdom behind continuing this in light of Federal guidance which suggests otherwise.
To listen to this part of the State Board of Education meeting, please go here: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=4240&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=13013&PageID=1770
The embattled Head of School for Family Foundation Academy, Sean Moore, is also the treasurer for the Delaware Charter School Network. On the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) is Chuck Taylor, who is the President of the Governing Board of the Delaware Charter School Network. Taylor is listed on the CSAC Voting Committee as a “community member” and “former charter school leader”.
It is obvious there could be a large conflict of interest with Taylor and Moore serving on the same board. Taylor, in my opinion, should have recused himself from dealing with this school’s charter renewal, especially in light of the forthcoming financial improprieties that will be coming out shortly. But the very fact Taylor is listed as “community member” and not his true role, and the fact that Kendall Massett, the executive director of the DE Charter School Network is allowed to ask questions during a charter renewal committee meeting is suspect in itself. The DE Charter School Network is a non-profit company whose mission is to support the charter schools in their network. But it is obvious they have way too much influence at the DOE. If they want to act like union reps, they should call themselves that.
Things keep piling up against Family Foundations Academy, the charter school in Wilmington, DE that is up for charter renewal. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make a decision at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, December 18th.
During the schools initial charter school renewal meeting on October 14th, the board and heads of school were grilled by the CSAC, and you can see where, in my opinion, Chuck Taylor crossed the line. It’s a lengthy read, but goes into a lot of what has been already released. But don’t think this is the end for Family Foundations, there will be more coming.
I’ve written the DOE gave Family Foundations Academy a pass while Gateway and Reach were given a trip to the guillotine, but I don’t think things are looking too good for this Animal House charter.