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
Three Delaware Due Process Hearing and two Administrative Complaint decisions were put on the Delaware Department of Education website with varied results. The Due Process cases involved the Colonial School District, Brandywine School District, and a combined case against Delaware College Prep and the Delaware DOE. As well, an Administrative Complaint decision involving the Red Clay Consolidated School District prevailed for the district where another Administrative Complaint involving the Milford School District prevailed for the student.
In most of these cases, there were complaints around Independent Educational Evaluations in terms of the costs and the timing of them. Other cases involved residential treatment center costs, a school making sure IEP accommodations were followed, and statute of limitations. These are important decisions to read. Parents can avoid many pitfalls by reading these and seeing what they shouldn’t do. Special education is complicated enough but even a careless error on a parent’s part can lead to future ramifications. All schools, districts, and teachers should read these as well. Special education will never get better unless the players are informed of their rights in all sides of the issues. Many of these cases involve timing, on either the school or the parent’s part. The Brandywine case is very interesting.
Many schools in Delaware start up again in two weeks. Many parents will be requesting IEPs or updates to existing ones. Now is the time to see what cases are setting precedence!
Due Process Hearing: Colonial School District Vs. Student
Due Process Hearing: Student Vs. Brandywine School District
Due Process Hearing: Student vs. Delaware College Prep and Delaware Department of Education
Administrative Complaint: Student Vs. Red Clay Consolidated School District
Administrative Complaint: Student Vs. Milford School District
Revenge is ugly business. When it takes place at a very high state level and the object of that revenge gets a whole article about it in the state’s biggest newspaper, it is really ugly.
Today, James Fisher and Matthew Albright published an article about the Auditor of Accounts, Kathleen Davies. The article claims Davies was put on leave over two months ago due to not using the state procurement card for travel expenses. According to the story, sources who would only be named as “state employees” contacted the Office of Management and Budget, then run by Ann Visalli, in November of 2015. They alleged Davies spent over $7700 in travel expenses (over four years) and received personal reimbursements instead of using the state p-card. She did do this. But was it wrong? Absolutely not. I’m not buying any of this. Let’s take a close look at what else was going on at the time these “sources” (as the News Journal calls them) filed this complaint.
Davies had just come out with a report on many charter schools, not just Delaware College Prep (the only school mentioned in the article). Kuumba Academy was also named in the report on personal reimbursements as using funds against the accounting policies of the state. Two other charters did not have any inappropriate use of state funds: Odyssey Charter School and Thomas Edison Charter School.
But there was more going on at that time. The reports on Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy had not come out yet. The September 30th enrollment inspection was just beginning (which was published earlier this Spring and pulled from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s website after Davies was put on leave). Another Delaware charter school, The Delaware Met, was under formal review. Hearings and meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee took place in November and December of 2015. One of the big questions surrounding Delaware Met was how they were spending their money. And by default, their operation management company, Innovative Schools, would also be looked at.
There was also an inspection released by Davies on December 7th. This surrounded an anonymous tip about Delaware Department of Education employees abusing travel expenses. No wrongdoing was found in the inspection report. But why would the News Journal not mention such an important part of this timeline in their article as well as the actual inspection? If this accusation by sources who have now become “whistleblowers” was made to the OMB in November of 2015, this would have been the same time when Davies would have been working on the DOE travel expense report which came out on December 7th. The timing on this is uncanny!
If it took six months for Davies to be put on leave, what was the OMB doing for six months? Why did Davies just happen to be put on leave at the same time the DOE was pitching a conniption fit about the September 30th Inspection Report written by Davies? The report, published by Wagner’s office on May 5th, can be found here. Why did Wagner pull the report which had absolutely nothing to do with her supposed reasons for being put on leave? Which other pending audits was Davies working on? I do know the answer to a couple of these, especially one that I submitted to the auditor’s office. John Fluharty, the policy analyst from the Auditor of Accounts office, contacted me on March 17th to discuss the tip I sent that office. I talked to him on March 18th with what I knew. No follow-up has taken place since then nor has any report been released on my tip. I find that to be very odd…
And then we have the charter school audit bill crisis. Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams released three different bills in the first part of the 148th General Assembly. The first two were stricken in lieu of the third one which passed the Delaware House on June 30th, 2015. It’s next destination was the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Delaware Senator David Sokola. Prior to the second part of the 148th G.A. beginning last January, rumors began circulating that Sokola was going to introduce his own charter school audit bill. With his friends at the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Sokola crafted new legislation which weakened Williams bill considerably. Williams and Sokola battled publicly on Facebook over the bill, resulting in an eventual compromise a few months later. They both met with Davies, who supported Williams bill, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. The new legislation, House Bill 435, passed both the House and Senate and awaits Governor Markell’s signature.
But the biggest question is this: what did Davies do that was so wrong, that would warrant such a drastic action? While the guidelines regarding travel expenses published by the News Journal said the state prefers state employees use the p-card, it doesn’t rule out personal reimbursements. Furthermore, the article states she told employees she was doing this. If you have something to hide, you don’t tell everyone in the office!!! The only way she would have been reimbursed for those travel expenses is if someone approved it and saw the receipts. Who approved the expenses? More importantly, where is the fire here?
Davies was not put on leave over this. This is a cover. The whole thing reeks of corruption at a very high level. Tom Wagner won’t talk about it because it’s a personnel issue. So how did the News Journal get the story? I can tell you this: I was contacted by an employee of the Delaware Department of Education who asked me if I heard about Kathleen Davies. This was on May 26th, a week after the September 30th report disappeared. This employee said “word is she had a falling out with Tom Wagner. And won’t be back.” Now I hear from sources all the time about different state employees. But how is that a DOE employee would have intimate knowledge of a situation between Tom Wagner and his second-in-command? And how in the world would they know Davies wouldn’t be returning? That would indicate a conversation took place with someone from the State Auditor’s office with either an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education or an employee of the State Board of Education for that much knowledge to come out for what we are being told is a “personnel issue”.
This is my firm belief: someone was very frightened about an audit inspection Davies was working on. Something that would make someone or several people look very bad. This person would have to have the power to be able to pull strings with an elected official to get Davies put on personal leave. Because this fabricated nonsense about personal reimbursements is absurd. Other state employees do it. Even our own Governor was mentioned in an audit report for not following state accounting rules with travel. Was he put on leave? Hell no! Was Tom Wagner put on leave when it was announced he “accidentally” let his own house go into foreclosure? Nope.
I’ve been going through all district and charter expenses the past few weeks and I can say with certainty that any travel expense amounts incurred by Davies are a drop in the bucket compared to what they spend. And I seriously questioned one district about an outrageously high amount in one coding area. No response on that one over two weeks later. So why target the one person who has the ability to produce reports that can put others in a very bad light over financial abuse? I believe I just answered my own question. To pull this off, that takes a serious amount of cunning and guile. Someone with pull and motivation. I would have to think Ann Visalli would know that other state employees use personal reimbursements for travel expenses. I don’t know much about her, except to say she resigned shortly after Davies was put on leave. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Who resigned before the budget passed.
As for Kathleen Davies, I hope she gets the vindication she deserves from this oh-so-obvious smear campaign against her. This is a woman who has spent most of her time at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office finding actual situations of financial abuse and scandal. Most of them have been against charter schools. Delaware Military Academy report in 2013. Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep reports in 2015. Providence Creek Academy, EastSide Charter School and Prestige Academy in 2016. And potentially more. But for those reading this smear article on Davies in the News Journal today, they won’t know all of this stuff going on behind the scenes. So if you read this, please share it so all Delawareans can know that Kathleen Davies is deserving of much more respect than this. I am positive she has enemies in this state. Those who expose the truth often do. Those who do wrong fear exposure more than anything. So who did Davies frighten so much that they would go to these lengths to remove her and tarnish her good name?
Updated, 6:12pm, 7/31/16: This article has been updated to reflect there was no wrongdoing on the part of Gateway Lab School in any audit report. This was an error on my end, and I did write an article to apologize to Gateway regarding this.
Three of the five charters that submitted major modification requests to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education got the green light today. The Charter School Accountability Committee held their final meetings with the three schools today. All three received a recommendation of approval from the committee. The State Board of Education will make the final decision at their March meeting.
Two other schools that submitted major mods have meetings tomorrow with the CSAC. Prestige Academy has their last meeting and Academia Antonia Alonso has their first. Another school, Odyssey Charter School, submitted a minor modification for enrollment changes but Secretary of Education Godowsky exercised his authority to give them the CSAC treatment. They also meet with the CSAC tomorrow.
Should the State Board approve all these modifications, many students will be in flux next year. First State Montessori will increase their enrollment significantly. Two other charters submitted minor modifications for up to 15% increases: Great Oaks and Kuumba Academy. They only need Secretary approval and not the State Board. Prestige, Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, and Delaware Design-Lab will decrease their enrollment. Academia Antonia Alonso will actually move their location from the Community Education Building. This is on top of Delaware Met closing in January and Delaware College Prep closing at the end of this school year. In December, Red Clay’s board approved a modification for Delaware Military Academy to start increasing their enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year. Who needs a freeze on new charter applications when the Delaware DOE becomes Grand Central Station for Wilmington charter school students?
Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted unanimously not to renew the charter for Delaware College Preparatory Academy. The Delaware charter school serves students from Kindergarten through 5th grade. But they will be closing at the end of the year. Will they go quietly into the night? Or should we expect some pushback like Moyer and Reach attempted to do last year? My guess is on the latter. At the meeting, Delaware College Prep Head of School Angela Dennis gave public comment asking the board to keep the school open. Another teacher gave a public comment as well. The Board had no discussion before the vote. Many folks in the audience came just for the Delaware College Prep decision, and they were not happy about the decision.
Rumors had been swirling over on Kilroy’s about this type of action as far back as last March. I wrote about the Red Clay charter committee’s recommendation for non-renewal last month. In October, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found Delaware College Prep had some suspicious financial abuses regarding Board President Yardise Jones but nowhere near the level of abuse at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.
It looks like another Delaware charter is one for the books. Tomorrow, we find out about Delaware Met. Will any other charters get yanked this year? With the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores not counting for last year, I would tend to doubt it unless something goes terribly awry at one of them in the next six months.
Red Clay’s board did renew the charter for Delaware Military Academy as well as approving their modification request to increase their enrollment. But only after they made the head of school promise that this was contingent on funding to build additions to the school. Commandant Anthony Pullella said yes.
All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours! The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep. The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.
If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met. For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record. Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states. Most of them are “mom and pop” charters. Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.
The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working. Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers. I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores. The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well. This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices. We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes. So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students. We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.
And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open. Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use. Their schools are still open. Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft. But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.
The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez. The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover. Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases. And that was just the verified amount. Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware. That is some serious coin!
Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools. *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher. Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there. Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet. Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.
Many are wondering why the three are not in jail. Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing. Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter. This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office. Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators. The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques. When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.
In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse. Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools. In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds. While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many. Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!
*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up. Apologies for the error!
Behind the scenes in Delaware is a woman who had a VERY busy 2015. Kathleen Davies is the Chief Administrative Officer at Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office. She is the name on all the inspection reports for Delaware charter schools. Academy of Dover. Delaware College Prep. Kuumba Academy. And yesterday’s Delaware Department of Education inspection (of which they were cleared). She even has a pending audit investigation with Family Foundations Academy.
These actions did not go unnoticed by one Delaware State Representative. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 186 (after going through a few revisions) to mandate charters go through the State Auditor’s office when contracting for auditors. It became one of the lightning rod bills of the season, which prompted Davies to testify to support the bill. She told the Delaware House Education Committee the situation with the charters was worse than they could imagine.
During this time, the Academy of Dover audit inspection was finishing up. When the report was released, all the Delaware major media picked up on it. Former Principal Noel Rodriguez had used well over $160,000 in school funds for personal purchases, along with numerous other egregious activities. In October, Davies released a report on four charters. Two were cleared of any wrongdoing, but Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy had some nasty findings. And apparently, while that was finishing up, her office was working on the report on the DOE!
With Delaware Met’s pending charter revocation, will the auditor’s office step in? While their closure has more to do with academic and organizational reasons the financial picture is not pretty at this point. And that whole real estate deal is begging for an investigation. I hope though, for Davies sake, her charter school audits decrease in 2016!
The Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education, as well as voting on an opt-out policy for the district, will also look at the renewal of two charters authorized by Red Clay: Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep. Delaware College Prep has been plagued with issues for years. Will the Red Clay board recommend charter revocation at their December board meeting? The Delaware Department of Education gave them a rating of “Falls Far Below Standard” on their financial framework for the 2014-2015 academic year and the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found severe financial mismanagement at the school. The Red Clay Charter School Accountability Committee report does not bode well for them…
Updated, 6:45pm: Kilroy is on it! Red Clay Charter School Accountability Committee recommending now renewing Delaware College Prep’s charter!
The Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education will give a presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, November 19th. Among other things, they have rated charters on a scale of 1-3. These tiers will have 1 being good, 2 some issues, and 3…not so good. The charters at the Tier 3 status are Academia Antonio Alonso, Academy of Dover, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Odyssey Charter School, and Prestige Academy. This list does not include the charters that opened this year because there is nothing to compare their organizational and financial frameworks to. But even though Delaware Met and Delaware Design Lab are not on this list this does not mean they aren’t in trouble.
Delaware Design Lab High School is on probation following their formal review last year for low enrollment before they opened. The school did get their enrollment up, but according to this report the Charter School Office is reviewing their budget and enrollment and are on some type of corrective action. Delaware Met is on formal review for pretty much everything not even three months after they opened. One interesting observation was their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting has been changed from November 30th to December 1st. I would imagine this is because the DOE has to face the Joint Finance Committee over at Legislative Hall on the 30th. It looks like the Charter School Office will be pushing more involvement with parents at the charters with Parent Teacher Organizations. Parent involvement is never a bad thing!
Charter Schools authorized by the Red Clay Consolidated School District go through charter renewals, modifications, and formal reviews through Red Clay, not the Delaware Department of Education. Both Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep are up for charter renewal this year. Delaware College Prep was in the news very recently when the State Auditor found some financial abuse going on by the school leader. Kilroy’s Delaware has raised several red flags about this school in the past six months. They are also on probation status based on their formal review last year for academic performance. Here is their charter renewal application:
And the exhibits and other information that are mentioned in the application can be found here:
Interesting that they have no parent representative on their school board as of October 1st, but they are “actively looking”. Here is the agenda for this portion of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, 10/21/15:
Last year, we saw Moyer and Reach Academy close. Two years before that, Pencader Business School closed. Will we have two more Delaware charters close this year? Delaware College Prep and The Delaware Met? And what will fill the void? New charter applications in Wilmington have a moratorium until at least 2017. What I can see is more charters submitting modification requests to increase their enrollment. In the meantime, keep an eye out on Delaware College Prep. Just because the DOE doesn’t cover this is not an indicator that Red Clay won’t hold them accountable. I would love to see their reaction to the State Auditor report!
How about those apples? I actually found a huge technicality in the DOE reporting system for bullying and the DOE fixed it in record time. Contrary to popular belief, things at the Red Clay charter schools are NOT as rosy as the past couple years of bullying and discipline reports provided by the Delaware Department of Education would have you believe. I was very puzzled when I saw, for two years in a row, none of these three charters had their individual reports come up on the DOE School profiles website. I emailed John Sadowski, the Program Manager for Climate and Discipline at the DOE this morning and advised him of this. As of 12 noon, the reports are now available.
I’m not sure what happened, and it didn’t change the Annual bullying report I posted this morning, but it does show some things parents would not have seen before this fix. I would like to believe this happened because of the odd nature of Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Military Academy being the only charters in the state authorized by a school district. In this case, the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
Using Delaware College Prep as an example, this is the only information parents could see for them on the School Profiles page of the DOE website:
|Number of Reported Offenses (2014-15)|
|Suspensions and Expulsions|
When you hit the tab for details in both these sections you get to see a breakdown for this data as you can see in the below reports. But before 12 noon today, it didn’t come up for the three Red Clay charters while it did for every other public school in the state. I put up both the reports for Red Clay, before and after so you can see the difference.
Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 6:59am, 10/7/15.
Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 12:25pm, 10/7/15
Charter School of Wilmington Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware College Prep Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware Military Academy Combined Report 2014-2015
So what got me all interested in Red Clay charters and these reports? It had a lot to do with this article. I knew the student was suspended for many days over suspected drug activity. I wanted to be sure Charter School of Wilmington reported it right to the state since that was part of the issues at the time. I believe they did, because it shows 20 students were suspended from the school for a total of 118 days.
I don’t believe this was an intentional mistake on the DOE’s part, but oversight and making sure all the reports came up would have been prudent. I’m glad they fixed it though and parents can see what actually happens in terms of reportable offenses at these three schools.
With the current issues Delaware College Prep is going through, knowing they have had 18 fights and a violent felony might be something the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education may want to know about. Although I am curious what the two Delaware DOE offenses are for Delaware Military Academy with nothing checked off in the sections for that category. Maybe they aren’t done fixing it…
Charter school financial abuse. It happens. All the time in Delaware. It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes. These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket. But our State Government allows this to happen. Delaware has no Inspector General. Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass. And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it. State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits. Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no. It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first. Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.
These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District. Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done? These are not elected board members at charters. And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members. Many of the charters websites are a joke. Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up. No charter board records their meetings. No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that. None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time. The average citizen would in a New York minute. But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us. We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.
Let me get one thing straight. I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE. I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools. I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses. The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?” But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it. But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment. It has become a joke. The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools. And the results of all these reports are always the same.
The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group. If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card. If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?
And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.” While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business. Children are not a profit center. They go to school to learn. They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank. They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board. If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education. I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later. And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this. About all this education nonsense in our state. You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell. You answer to the people that elected you. The people are sick of the abuse and scandal. And we are waking up. Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong. It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something. Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January. Stop the fraud playing out in our state. Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.
*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats. The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.
Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner released a report today and Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy showed significant discrepancies regarding reimbursement of funds to school leaders. Thomas Edison Charter School and MOT Charter School, also included in the inspection, came through with flying colors. For Delaware College Prep, there was a “party loan” over $11,000.00 involving the Board President. For Kuumba, the Head of School, Assistant Head of School and a custodian were overpaid and the report alleges violations of state code in procuring contracts without any bidding process.
This tells us the seven charters that were under investigation by Wagner’s office. Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Thomas Edison Charter School, MOT Charter School, Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy. I have a sneaky feeling Delaware Met could fit into this category in the future based on events currently happening there.
More to come on this unexpected development. Congrats to Thomas Edison and MOT for doing the right thing. Kuumba and Delaware College Prep… there are no words! To the members of the General Assembly: House Bill 186 needs to pass first thing in January 2016. The charter financial fraud in our state must pass. All Delaware Republicans need to open their eyes to this mismanagement and outright theft of state funds and do the right thing.
“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year. This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself. We need to learn from the past.”
The above quote was found in a Delaware charter school’s board minute notes recently. About a year ago, I went through all the charters websites and graded them on certain things: board minutes up to date, agendas for next board meetings posted, and monthly financial information posted. I will be grading each charter based on this information again this year, but I am adding in Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) notifications and minutes. I’m not including charters that haven’t opened yet or charters who got shut down this year cause really, what’s the point?
I can say a lot of the charters have become more compliant and transparent with these in the past year. But some have not. I gave a little bit of slack on the board minutes. A lot of them had a meeting in the past week, so I don’t expect them to get the June minutes up right away. If you see red, it’s not a major thing, but they need to fix it. If it’s in BOLD red, they are majorly breaking the law and they need to fix that ASAP! State law mandates charters put up their monthly financial info up within 15 days of their last board meeting. As well, you have to have a CBOC committee and meetings. Two of the charters on here with some big dinks are on probation already so they need to get on that. Two others are up for charter renewal, so they definitely need to jam on it!
Academia Antonia Alonso– Agenda: no (only has two agendas for two board meetings in past year listed), Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: has meetings listed through end of 2015, Grade: C-
Academy of Dover– Agenda: Yes, Board minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: July 30th, Grade: B
Campus Community School– Agenda: July 2015, Board minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: March 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, Grade: D
Charter School of Wilmington– Agenda: Yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, but does indicate no July meeting, Grade: B
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security– Agenda: no, website gives generic agenda for every meeting, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade: F
Delaware College Prep– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: April 2014, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade F- for Formal Review
Delaware Military Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: January 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Monday of the month, Grade: D
Early College High School– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: May 2015 (states June meeting had no quorum which is majority of board members present to approve items up for action), CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: no, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed but states meets 4th Thursday of the month, Grade: F
Eastside Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: Shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A
Family Foundations Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A
First State Montessori Academy– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: February 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 4th Thursday of the month, Weird Fact: Uses WordPress as their website, the same as Exceptional Delaware…, Grade: D+
Gateway Lab School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A+
Kuumba Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: B
Las Americas Aspiras Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: yes*, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Thursday of each month, *Superstar: Monthly Financial report is excellent, shows both what the DOE wants AND what state appropriations and codes are needed!!!!, Grade: A+
MOT Charter School– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: not sure, shows agenda for June 2015 meeting but last meeting was in May 2013, CBOC Minutes: May 2013, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: F
Newark Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: board meetings listed through June, 2016, Grade: A+
Odyssey Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 12th, Grade: A-
Positive Outcomes– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 19th, Bonus: board meetings AND CBOC meetings listed through June 2016, Grade: A+
Prestige Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: none listed, website only shows members of CBOC, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 3rd Tuesday of each month, Grade: F
Providence Creek Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 25th, Bonus: does have all future board meetings through June 2016 on school calendar, Grade: A+
Sussex Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: February 2015, next board meeting: September 16th (no meetings in July or August), Grade: C
Thomas Edison Charter– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 17th, Bonus: Has all board meetings listed through June 2016, Grade A+
There you have it. The Exceptional Delaware July 2015 Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report. 8 out of 22 need to do some serious damage control quick. Because once DOE Jenny (as Kilroy calls her) reads this report, she’s going to have some serious questions for some of you!
Oh, I forgot one thing. The quote up above will be shown later today as part of another article. Because even though that school wants to forget about the past year, the past is knocking on their door! More later!
So after I did my grades on all the schools for the percentage of the student populations that are special needs, I noticed some alarming trends, especially in Newcastle County in Delaware. This county has the bulk of the charter schools in this state, and some of the lowest special education populations in the state.
Red Clay Consolidated School District is a very unique school district in this state. Included in the district are the charter schools that reside within. Of course, I have to start with my most talked-about charter school, the good old Charter School of Wilmington. With their underwhelming .6% special ed population. I know, it’s a “smart” school, with an application process that probably makes Yale or Harvard look easy. But, many special needs students are smart, some are brilliant. They just need to be fully accommodated to reach that potential. I don’t think CSW wants to give that kind of attention to itself. Or to special needs students. So what would happen if CSW all of a sudden came to their senses and started accepting a lot more special needs students. Does that mean other schools would actually drop in special ed? Schools like A.I. Dupont High School (17.1%), Dickinson (17.5%) or McKean (20.2%)? We can’t put that much weight on CSW. So let’s take a look at the other charter schools in the area. Delaware Military Academy has a 2.8% population for special ed and Delaware College Prep lands at 4.1%. Delaware College Prep is an elementary school, so we can’t compare that to other high schools. But to be fair, let’s include Conrad School Of Science (2.9%) and Calloway School of the Arts (2.5%). These are all the high schools in Red Clay Consolidated. So what conclusions can be drawn from this? The bulk of special needs children are served at the public high schools. There are no charter elementary schools in Red Clay Consolidated. Why is that? Would it be too difficult to filter the “good” and the “potential trouble spot” students? Let’s not forget, the state average is 13.5%. So the public schools get the majority of the special ed students, thus bearing more of the financial cost through needs based funding.
To accurately see this reality, we would need to look at each school’s federal funding. Unfortunately none of the schools give a breakdown between the subgroups that fall under federal funding. The IDEA-B funding that schools receives are what covers special education in schools. If anyone can provide this information, I would love to see it.
All federal funding for any type of public school in Delaware falls under Title I (for students listed as poverty) and IDEA-B (all special education funds). Any school district should separate the two in their financial statements. Charter School of Wilmington does not. So it is impossible to find out how much they get for IDEA-B funding based on their total actual revenue from federal funding of $83,412. The same can be said of Delaware Military Academy. No breakdown on their federal funds, but they did receive a total of $156,301.96, almost twice as much as CSW. Red Clay does not give an exact breakdown of their federal IDEA-B funding either, but they do give a breakdown of the special education units that falls under needs based funding, so I would have to calculate what that amount comes to. I will do that and then I will update this article. Or again, if anyone wants to provide that information I would be happy to accept it!
The bottom line is a huge enrollment preference that is disproportionately unfair to Red Clay’s public schools. School choice allows parents to switch their children to different schools. But when the charter schools ask for IEP/Special Education info on the applications, some parents may view this as a positive when the reality is a game. The charter schools frequently use this information to weed out the undesirables. So much so that a bill was introduced today by House Rep Darryl Scott to prevent this very sort of event from happening.