Innovative Schools Innovatively Closed

 

Screenshot_2019-06-24 Site Unavailable

The organization that ran a ton of back-end business operations for many Delaware charter schools is kaput.  Their website is unavailable and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since 2015.  While details are few about when and why they shut down, I will write more details as they emerge.

 

I’ve written about Innovative Schools many times on this blog.  They have been involved in the financial aspect of schools such as The Delaware Met and the Academy of Dover when they had their fraud there with Noel Rodriguez.  I did call their phone number which still answers as Innovative Schools but no one picks up.  You can leave a message.  Not sure what is going on there.

The company was founded in 2008 by former Christina School District Director Debbie Doordan.  Another noteworthy past President of the company was Riccardo Stoeckicht who now works at Odyssey Charter School in the position of “Global Education Campus Operations Officer”.  His name has been affiliated with recent financial misdoings at the school.  As part of a long list of reasons, Odyssey is under formal review with the Delaware Department of Education.

 

 

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Design Thinking Academy Next Delaware Charter School To Shut Down

Another Delaware charter school is shutting down at the end of the 2018-2019 school year as Design Thinking Academy will close.  Despite receiving a $10 million dollar grant from XQ schools and changing their name last fall from Delaware Design-Lab High School to Design Thinking Academy the five-year old charter school could not retain and recruit new students.

On the charter school’s website the following announcement appeared tonight:

Design Thinking Academy Community, it is with a heavy heart that I write tonight to inform you that Design Thinking Academy will close its doors at the end of this school year. On Thursday night, the school’s board of directors voted to relinquish our charter to the state.

This is a decision we did not take lightly. Frankly, it was not unanimous. But the simple truth is this: We have been unable to attract the number of students needed to keep our school financially viable.

For the past two years, we have worked to reverse our declining enrollment numbers, but those efforts have not resulted in the applications we need to be viable. We fell below the minimum enrollment mandated by our charter as of May 1. Due to this, we will not be able to run this school with the excellence that your children deserve.

I want to make one point very clear: We will finish this school year. Our seniors will graduate, our students will continue to attend classes, and our doors will remain open. A few school days at the end of the school year calendar may not be needed to meet state requirements. If the decision is made to cancel school on any specific days, an updated calendar will be sent out as soon as possible.

It is important that you immediately start thinking about what school your students will attend next year. We hope to provide the resources you need to find the right school for your student. Starting tonight, you can go to bit.ly/DEPublicSchools for information about Delaware public schools. Lists of schools with openings and dates for school Open Houses will be on our website and sent home with students tomorrow. In addition, the Delaware Charter Schools Network will host a school fair on campus in late May, where representatives from Delaware schools with openings for the 2019-20 school year will be available to help you through the application process. As soon as we confirm a date, we will let you know.

I understand this will be a difficult time for everyone involved – students, staff, and teachers alike. If you have any questions about the process or the reason why this decision was  made, please feel free to reach out to me at dtaboardofdirectors.com or the school at 302- 292-5450.

On behalf of the board, administration, and staff of Design Thinking Academy, I want you to know that it has been our honor to educate your students over the past four years. To our students, I wish this story could have a different ending, but as this chapter closes, another begins for you, and I have no doubt you will design a great future.

While the charter school didn’t receive the entire $10 million dollar grant from XQ it begs the question of how well they spent the money they did receive.  To see a list of the issues that plagued the school from the get-go, please go here: Delaware Design-Lab

In a school year where Delaware got a federal grant to expand charter schools this is a clear sign that being overzealous with charter school openings is never a good thing.  Following charter closures such as Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Prestige Academy, Delaware Met, and others, Design Thinking Academy follows the disturbing trend of charter closures in Delaware.

Over Half Of Delaware Charter Schools Below Expectations

Based on the Delaware School Success Framework, well over half of Delaware’s charter schools are not meeting expectations.  Tonight, the Delaware Charter School Office will present the 2017-2018 Charter School Annual Report to the Delaware State Board of Education.

The Delaware School Success Framework, based largely on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, shows that 57% of the charter schools authorized by the Delaware Department of Education, are below standard overall.  While I will never agree with any form of measurement based on the very flawed state assessment, the charters love to brag about how they do less with more.  But this clearly shows a plethora of reasons why they are just like most of Delaware’s traditional schools.  In fact, the ones who do REALLY well on the not-so Smarter Balanced Assessment have demographics that are woefully skewed.

Delaware School Administrator Funding Analysis Reveals A Hot Mess!

In essence, administrator counts are being determined by units of pupils, as opposed to the number of personnel under their span of responsibility.

Continue reading

Breaking News: Carney & Bunting To Announce Weighted Funding “Phase One”. Let The Education Hunger Games Begin Again.

Next Tuesday, January 15th, Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a press conference at Legislative Hall to announce a weighted funding system for Delaware students.  Luckily, this blogger got the details of it this evening.  The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue reading

Special Report: Red Flags In Delaware Student Enrollment Trends & The Increase In Special Education

The Delaware Department of Education released the September 30th counts report for the 2018-2019 school year.  Enrollment in Delaware is up by 775 students.  Special education is on the rise, jumping to over 16%. There are some very odd trends going on with different sub-groups in Delaware.  Ones that are making me VERY suspicious. Continue reading

Delaware DOE’s Big Plan To Steal Kids From Traditional School Districts & Send Them To Charter Schools

There are a finite number of students in Delaware schools.  Sure, the number enrolled steadily grows over the years, but there are only so many schools.  We know in Delaware that some districts are having lower enrollments thus creating lower capacities in those buildings.  The Delaware Department of Education really doesn’t care about that.  But if they can make sure charter schools grow, let’s do it!  Let’s take a look at the Delaware DOE’s plans for the huge grant they just got! Continue reading

John Kowalko Doesn’t Hate Charter Schools But…

When you think of those who don’t support charter schools in Delaware, one of the first names that pops up is State Representative John Kowalko, from the 25th Rep. District.  Known for his arguments against charter schools, specifically Delaware’s biggest- Newark Charter School, it can be easy to make the assumption Kowalko hates charter schools.  However, that is not the case.

Earlier this weekend, Kowalko sent out an email to his constituents with his thoughts and beefs on Delaware charter schools. Continue reading

From “Jon’s Loving Father” To Absolute Insanity: The Exceptional Delaware Story

As I delve into year five on this blog, sometimes it is healthy to take a look back at my humble beginnings.  From the crazy legislation I proposed in 2014 to my modern-day attempt to get a Secretary of Education removed from power, it has been a crazy four plus years!  It started out with a plan and turned into so much more! Continue reading

Governor Carney’s Communications Director Jonathan Starkey On Susan Bunting: “No Comment”

I just called Jonathan Starkey, Governor Carney’s Communications Director.  I asked him flat-out what Governor Carney is doing about the Susan Bunting situation.  I received silence.  I then advised Starkey we are now seeing 105.9 articles being removed from Google searches and my Facebook post being reported as spam last week.  His official response: “No comment.”

I let Starkey know there would be more coming out and this is just making the Governor look worse.  He thanked me for my call.

Seriously?  Carney better get his head out of the sand and act on this.  We have a sitting Secretary of Education, at a Cabinet level position, with allegations of knowing about widespread financial theft and parent complaints about extremely egregious behavior from Patrick Miller, and Starkey gives me a “no comment”?

I thought about the Facebook spamming and the 105.9 article disappearing from Google.  The fact that it is disappearing shows they do not want it out there.  It isn’t a case of it being untrue and they know it.  They are actively trying to suppress the information and preventing people from seeing it.  In the grand scheme of things, a Delaware Secretary of Education knowing about this stuff isn’t earth-shattering news for America.

This is my hunch: Bunting is just the tip of the iceberg.  It was just last Friday the Delaware Dept. of Justice sentenced a former DOE employee to probation for stealing grant money.  Patrick Miller was doing the same thing.  How rampant is this?  How many education dollars have been stolen over the years?  I believe this is what they don’t want us doing.  They don’t want us knowing they have been powerless to stop it so they ignore it and pray it goes away.  The people of Delaware aren’t idiots.  As I told Starkey, I’m not giving up on this.

If you have ANY information about foul play with Delaware education funds, anywhere, be it a district, charter school, or the DOE, anything, let me know.  I promise confidentiality.  But it is time for the shattered puzzle pieces to come together so we have a clear picture.  As taxpaying citizens, we need to know what is going on.  Enough is enough.  No more.  If they want a war, they just got one.

Delaware DOE Has 7 Charter School Renewals To Contend With This Fall!

When you have 24 charter schools in a state, 22 of which are authorized by the state Department of Education, there are going to be years where the amount of charter renewals are going to go up.  This fall, the Delaware DOE Charter School Office and the Charter School Accountability Committee are going to have their hands full as seven charter schools go through their renewal process. Continue reading

Changes To Exceptional Delaware: Your One-Stop Delaware Search Engine!

I’ve been wanting to do this for years!  I’ve changed this blog to include links to every single Delaware school district and charter school.  As well, I’ve added all the Delaware media (newspaper and radio) websites.  I’ve included many State of Delaware websites: Delaware DOE, Governor Carney’s website, The General Assembly, Auditor of Accounts, Attorney General and more!  Various education support groups have been added: DSEA, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Delaware School Boards Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators and more!  You will still be able to find a list of current Delaware blogs as well as closed Delaware blogs.  I cleaned up those lists to take out ones that are not current anymore (nothing written in 2018) and those that are non-functional.  In addition, I’ve added some links to what I call “transparency” sites that folks ask me about all the time.  I’ve found a ton of information over the years at many of these links and so can you!

If you are not on these list of links and would like to be added, please let me know.  I try to get everything but I’m not perfect!

I hope these changes will allow Delaware citizens, parents, students, teachers and more be able to navigate through our state easier.  These are just the first of many changes coming to Exceptional Delaware!

Audit: All School Board Agendas, Minutes, & Audio Recordings; Caesar Rodney, Brandywine & Laurel Are Breaking The Law Big Time!

Transparency in public education is a must.  When more than a quarter of Delaware’s state budget goes to public education, the citizens expect, and rightfully so, transparency.  But some of our districts and charters struggle with transparency.

I haven’t done this since 2016, but I thought it was a good time to see how Delaware’s traditional school district and charter school boards were doing with transparency on their websites.  I checked for board minutes, board agendas, and board audio recordings. Continue reading

Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education?  Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading

Delaware School Districts & Charter Schools That Are Serial Abusers Of Petty Cash Laws

**UPDATED BELOW WITH NEW INFORMATION ABOUT ONE DISTRICT**

Two years ago, letters went out to five charter schools from State Auditor Tom Wagner letting them know they were in violation of Delaware’s Budget and Accounting Manual (BAM).  For the purposes of this article, I looked to see how many districts and charters violated BAM in one area.  That was where they write checks from petty cash accounts for more than $500.00.  That is a big no-no according to BAM.  I looked in both FY2017 and FY2018 up until May 31st.  There were many offenders, including two who were included in the 2016 letters!  The reason I started with FY2017 was to give the benefit of the doubt just in case districts and charters were not clear of the rule before that fiscal year.  This isn’t just a few districts and charter schools. Continue reading

Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli

If you read the News Journal article on the Charter School of Wilmington teachers voting to unionize, it was filled with reasons why President Sam Paoli did not want the teachers to unionize. The article failed to capitalize on why the vote happened in the first place- CSW President Sam Paoli.

At this point it is unclear why the educators wanted to unionize or by how large a margin the vote was successful.

I have those answers. Continue reading

Proposed Legislation Would Give Delaware Secretary Of Education Authority To Suspend Teacher Licenses In Certain Felony Situations

A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school.  Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority.  The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.

The synopsis of the bill is as follows: Continue reading

Big Vote In The House Today On School Suspension Bill

SS1 for Senate Bill #85 should get a final vote in the Delaware House of Representatives today.  If it passes and Governor Carney signs the legislation, it should mean Delaware students won’t receive out of school suspensions for ridiculous offenses.  The bill would make schools report the offenses they suspend students for and, data shows, schools don’t like being called out for zero tolerance policies!

The bill came out two years ago as part of the 148th General Assembly but it didn’t make it out of that session.  Senator Margaret Rose Henry tweaked the bill and after more than two months, the bill comes down to the House vote today.  If this is Senator Henry’s education bill swan song, it will be a good one!  Senator Henry is retiring after the end of this session.

This Act draws attention to the types of discipline used in schools by capturing data about out-of-school suspensions and publishing that data, in an effort to help schools identify areas where the data regarding out-of-school suspensions indicates there is room to reduce such suspensions. This Act is meant to increase transparency, improve overall school climate, resulting in improved student outcomes. The collection and publication of this data will also help the Department of Education and community partners identify opportunities to provide greater supports to schools, students, and their families. According to data provided by the Delaware Department of Education (“DOE”), thousands of Delaware students receive out-of-school suspensions each year for minor infractions, such as being unprepared or late for class, dress code violations, and disrespectful behavior. In 2013, only 2% of out-of-school suspensions were for serious offenses such as weapons, drugs, or serious violence. Out-of-school suspensions do not address the root causes for the misbehavior, and only serve to put the students further behind in class. Furthermore, DOE data shows that, in 2013, African-American students made up only 32% of the student body, but accounted for 62% of out-of-school suspension, and students with disabilities made up 13% of the student body, but accounted for 24% of out-of-school suspensions. Federal discipline guidance, developed jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, instructs schools to commit to regular evaluation of school discipline policies and practices, and monitor progress toward the schools’ climate and discipline goals. The federal process requires schools to collect and publicly report disaggregated student discipline data and solicit feedback from students, staff, families, and community representatives. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. This Substitute Bill makes the following changes to Senate Bill No. 85: 1. References the existing definition of “disruptive behavior” in Title 14. 2. Includes “disability” as a category for data collection. 3. Extends by 1 year the years stated in the requirements to retain the same time frames. This is necessary because this Act will be enacted in 2018, not 2017 when it was drafted. 4. Clarifies what information is required for reports and provides deadlines for the required plans and reports. 5. Clarifies that schools must develop plans and strategies with stakeholder input. 6. Clarifies content for professional development.                    

Charter School of Wilmington Teachers Vote To Unionize And Join DSEA

Last night, Charter School of Wilmington teachers made a huge vote.  They became the only current charter school in Delaware to join the Delaware State Education Association.  As such, they will be a part of the National Education Association as well.  This opens the door for other charter schools to unionize in the future.  Often, when one domino falls…

The vote was not won by an overwhelming majority but enough for it to pass.  I’ve been hard on DSEA and NEA recently but that was because of very unique and limited circumstances.  That was a case of bad apples in the bunch and perception.  Even with that, I do support the unions and see them as a last defense against education reform that is bad for schools.  This CSW vote changes the landscape in Delaware.

I’ve heard rumblings about severe dissatisfaction with CSW leader Sam Paoli for months now.  Nobody wanted to go on the record though.  A teacher was terminated in the Winter over a minor disagreement with Paoli.  Many claim he rules the school with an iron fist and teachers, parents, and students are against this dictatorship.  By unionizing, these teachers regain some sense of control over their job security.  The CSW board is not elected so it allowed Paoli to run around unchecked.

There have been other charter schools in Delaware that have looked into unionizing but this is the first to actually do it.  Last summer, teachers at Providence Creek Academy wanted to but you must have at least 50% of the vote in favor of it.

More information as it becomes available.

Updated, 10:50am: This is not the first time a Delaware charter school joined DSEA.  Positive Outcomes did many years ago but it only lasted a year.

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