A Parent’s Horrifying Experience With Her Daughters’ First And Only Day At Delaware Design-Lab High School

Someone once told me school choice is a roll of the dice.  For this parent and her two daughters, it was a one day nightmare that resulted in the parent pulling her children out of the Delaware public education system and homeschooling her daughters.  Delaware Design-Lab recently requested a major modification to reduce their enrollment (again), despite winning $10 million dollars from XQ Schools in the Fall of 2016.  The parent allowed me to publish an email she sent to the school with her reasons for taking her children out after one day in the school.  I did edit the email for grammatical purposes but none of the parent’s complaints were altered in any way.  As well, I did take out her daughters’ names and replaced them with Daughter A and Daughter J.

Hello Loretta,

There are numerous reasons that we did not stay with Delaware Design Lab.  I am not sure if you are aware how it is being run or what goes on in a normal day but I and the girls saw it.

I wound up in the office in the morning just to let everyone know we were there.  There were tons of students in the office arguing about dress code.  The secretary couldn’t get into her computer, there was tons of chaos. The substitutes didn’t even know where to go and Mr. Harris was nowhere to be found.  They had to have students escort the teachers.  The students were complaining they had no money and had to buy new pants for school and came in jogging pants and completely out of uniform standards.  This was something you and Mr. Harris had stressed on open house night.  There was confusion because the students that took us on tour were not in uniform either and did imply it wasn’t followed to the T at all.  Daughter A asked Mr. Harris and he said leggings were fine but Mrs. Hembree said leggings are not allowed at all.  There was confusion between Business Professional and Business Casual.  I remember both being said.  We went out and got stuff to meet the requirements while the current students are held to no standards or consequences.  That is minor but when you add it all together after the morning I had, and the day they had, it shows that there is no authority or administration adhering to their own guidelines.

The major things you said in the recruiting open house is almost opposite of our experience.  I know you followed through with my emails and we even came in on a Saturday to give you more paperwork.  School was pushed back to the 20th because they needed time to create a schedule for the girls.  I was more than understanding.  When we arrived Tuesday we sat for an hour and a half making schedules that should have already been done.  The counselor, Mr. Burke, was nice and I don’t know where the ball was dropped but it was.  He wasn’t well-informed with all the Design Lab offerings and the other younger gentleman, also a counselor, Mr. Sherodd, didn’t know the definition of some and didn’t seem to want to be bothered.  We were giving grace because we were so appreciative of being accepted late in the year.  It didn’t appear the paperwork I had brought in was even looked at.

So we ignored the fact their schedules should have been ready and the teachers weren’t aware of them coming.  We also gave grace when they received a new scheduling system and couldn’t figure it out or log in and needed to take training on it to be able to get into the system to make an official schedule.  This just added to the confusion and makes all the rumors I heard choosing this school true.

I sent several emails and told you in person the girls had to be withdrawn from Glasgow, and as far as I was told, by Christina School District, they never received it. They withdrew them by my email and acknowledgement of my home school being open.  That goes to show that there is no follow through with a simple request that is detrimental to my kids not receiving truancy.  I don’t even think Mrs. Hembree read the email about the request being emailed to the district office because I had to give her the email address again in person.  All while she is making the copies of my girls’ paperwork, the counselor Mr. Burke is in the office with small talk when he should have been working on the new scheduling system to get my girls a printed schedule instead of a hand written one. I then pick up the girls and they both burst into tears.  Each class they endured the students cussing, screaming, shouting out, didn’t raise hands, and they almost cried how the teachers were treated.  Most teachers didn’t even acknowledge the girls or talk to them.  In not one class, except for History, did they learn and they didn’t even learn that much.  I could see if this was the beginning of the year but not February.  The process should be seamless, the kids should be on point, and the teachers should be able to teach.  They couldn’t even talk because the kids just ran the show.  On top of that some classes were so full there weren’t enough desks.

My Daughter J broke her foot and was in a boot. Daughter A was helping her to gym and said oh now here we go to gym which most kids don’t enjoy anyway and the gym teacher comes up behind her and yells at her and Daughter J on their first day and says “go back to the counselor’s office. I don’t want you in my class you can’t do anything with a broken foot and since you don’t want to be here anyway you can go with her.”  Daugher A was trying to help Daughter J carry her stuff. She had been on her foot all day and was pushed and shoved up and down steps with the rude students.  My daughters were also told the gym teacher made the student who had a broken back last year run because he forgot his note.  That is serious.  My daughter did forget hers and I am so thankful they were sent to the counselor’s office because if she was made to run there would be a lawsuit and the school shut down.

Not being able to take Driver’s Ed was all a huge let down.

They were also called ho’s, bitches, and sluts throughout the day.  They were treated horribly by the majority of the student population.  Daughter J says one girl blurted out she lost her voice because she sucked so much D.  The students called the teachers the N word and were constantly causing chaos.  Where there is no order, chaos abounds.  I was feeling so down about my kids because home school didn’t align with public and it’s not supposed to.  My kids volunteer weekly, respect elders, read on their own, and have desires to become better than themselves every day.  The kids told Daugher J and Daughter A they were too smart for this school and had more potential than majority of the students.  They themselves want to leave Design Lab but can’t because the standards are so low they would be placed in a lower level class.

During the gym hour last period they were sent back to the counselor’s office to pick a new class because they were made aware they were not wanted in gym. While they are sitting there figuring out where they could be put, and the only option was Forensic Science, which neither of them wanted, they hear a student pouring her heart out to the younger gentleman, Mr. Sherodd.  She tells him that she is having some thoughts but wasn’t going to act on them but she was depressed and needed help.  He tells her he is not a counselor but that is how we were all introduced to him.  He said here is a list of therapists.  The student was still talking while he answers the phone and walks out the room.  The student comes over, tells the girls that the school doesn’t ever read their emails, her dad had a stroke a previous year and no one even knew nor were concerned.  She isn’t leaving because it’s her senior year.  When he comes back from his phone call, he sits down and looks at her and says why aren’t you back in class? She responds you didn’t really help or tell me what to do next. He responds I thought you were just going to talk to the student and she said what about these thoughts… should I receive medication, talk to my mom or get a therapist?  He says I am not qualified to tell you whether or not you need medicine but I have the list of therapists you can talk to.  She then stands up while he is talking to Mr. Burke and starts to walk back to class and says so once I start therapy will we be able to talk weekly and he says I am not a counselor and I don’t do weekly meetings.  The student was clearly distraught and going off about Mr. Reek and how he doesn’t teach and they need to hire better people.  Mr. Sherodd tells her to go to the office to complain about the teacher.  Right before she leaves she says he just pointed me to the office.  My girls were heartbroken for her especially after hearing about the shooting in Florida.  This kid is begging for help and no one is helping her.  People should drop what they are doing and help this girl out.

Daughter A also met with the Ashley Bystricki during the day and she didn’t say much whatsoever and nodded repeatedly and when discussing leaving two minutes before class she said that was fine but none of her teachers were made aware.

Mr. Spangler didn’t even acknowledge Daughter J in her math class. The aide gave her a worksheet that Daughter J had previously done the year prior.  They put her in IMP3 which she was the only sophomore and the aide asked Daughter J where she was and she said Algebra II and he said these kids are nowhere near Algebra II.

The only teacher they did like was Ms. Marvel.

The Spanish I teacher, for Daughter A, which was her last day, couldn’t get this one kid to settle, wound up slamming a metal yardstick to the desk scaring everyone and tried to use a pressure point technique on a kid and he just laughed at her.  Daughter A mouthed to her she was so sorry she was being treated like this and came over and offered help to Daughter A.  She was so thankful to be leaving for another school.

Ultimately, the teachers and the students don’t like being there and made it very well known.  There was no follow through on simple, standard requests.  There isn’t even an acting principal.  This environment is not conducive to learning.

This is probably why the school isn’t meeting enrollment and need to request a lower percentage through the DOE.

My kids are accomplishing way more at home with their curriculum, servicing the community, and their faith.  I truly believe homeschooling is the best option especially when this is what goes on in what is supposed to be a professional school setting.

I am reporting the school to the charter board and sending an email to a blogger who holds charter schools accountable.  I also shared it with everyone who wants to hear.  There needs to be better options than public.  This should have been the answer not equal to what the public is.  Most kids said that Design Lab is worse than their feeder Glasgow which isn’t an option either.

Thank you and God Bless,

Parent C

 

These kind of issues are going on in many of our public schools in Delaware.  For parents and students like this, public schools have become a living nightmare.  I recently had a discussion with someone about how public education turned into this, especially in high-needs schools.  When did students rule the roost?  When did some adults become almost numb and uncaring?  I am not saying this is all of our schools.  But it is one too many.  I’ve been in schools that do not have these issues.  But I’ve been in others that do.  It is not a charter school problem, it is a Delaware problem.  Perhaps I am “old school”, but this kind of conduct in our schools is unacceptable.  When there is no authority in schools, students will do whatever they want.  Is it the fault of the students in these situations or the administration?  Or both?

During my recent conversation mentioned above, I explained that education has turned into a business enterprise.  Despite many saying they represent students, that is not always the reality.  I’ve learned to know the difference.  For far too many, it is about the money involved first and students last.  It isn’t the teachers (in most cases), it is the administrators and boards that are responsible for making sure our schools are student first.  In this situation with Delaware Design-Lab, it is obvious, based on this experience, there are serious issues with teacher recruitment.  The environment at this school is NOT conducive to student learning.  Based on the parent’s email, she also had issues in the Christina School District at Glasgow High School.  For any parent to have to run from public education like this is a true shame.

I won’t pretend to have the answers.  I don’t know the solutions.  I can grapple with these issues and write about them, and in my heart I can cry for students that go through bullying and horrible education experiences.  I can write about situations like this.  I ask myself every single day what will be the catalyst for things to truly change.  While a ton of talk is going on about school safety, situations like this are the norm in far too many of our schools, whether they are traditional schools or charter schools.  School safety is paramount but that also includes addressing situations like this.

When I received the email from this parent, I shook my head.  I reached out to the parent again and she agreed I could publish it and added this:

The only good thing I could say about it is it was clean and nice looking.  The kids shared with my girls that most of the time the classes are so full there isn’t a desk for them to sit at.  The teachers are afraid to teach and from what I heard and could tell no acting Principal.  The Open House is very enticing and we thought this was an answer to our prayers.  Unfortunately not at all.  The one catch that is really sad that most don’t know about that Christina District office told us was once you register for a Charter in Delaware you have to complete a full year grade in it to be able to switch back to a public.  So this year wouldn’t have counted they would have had to complete 11th to switch back to a public.  Their public being Glasgow is even worse.  I don’t think parents know when they go to charter if they pull them out they have to go to private, parochial or home school like we are.  

In my own opinion I see a lot more deciding to home school in the years to come.  I don’t know if you write about public but Glasgow High was much worse than Design Lab.  I was there two days trying to register and I cried leaving.  It is so sad our youth have to endure this to get an education.  

Advertisements

Despite Getting Ten Million Bucks From XQ, Delaware Design-Lab STILL Can’t Get Their Enrollment Up!

Delaware Design-Lab High School submitted a major modification application to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office to lower their enrollment again!  This time they want to lower their enrollment by 26%.

I admire their tenacity, but sometimes you just have to realize there are too many charter schools in Northern New Castle County!  I’m not saying they should give up but how long is this going to go on for?  By failing to capitalize on their million dollar prize from XQ, they allowed their enrollment to drop to unsustainable levels.  They just got a major modification approved two years ago to lower their enrollment and now they want to do it again.

They were supposed to be at 475 students this year.  That was lowered from 600 students in 2016.  Instead, they had 298.  There is a reason no new charter applications have come in for New Castle County in three years.  They couldn’t even get to their magic number of 380 students to be at 80% enrollment based on their September 30th count.  They should be on formal review.  They were before they even opened for low enrollment but they managed to squeak by.  The only reason they aren’t is because of their XQ Super School prize.  I’m sure they are planning to spend those funds wisely but if their aren’t enough students there, what’s the point?  Apparently ten million bucks can get you a great many things except for actual students.

The rumor mill in Philadelphia is hearing Design-Lab wants to expand to the City of Brotherly Love.  I wouldn’t call their original in The First State a resounding success if they can’t get the students.

In their application, the school has projected enrollment for the next four years.  Their numbers don’t make much sense.  As an example, they are looking to raise this year’s ninth graders (69) to 75 during their sophomore year.  But then that jumps to 85 their junior year (because so many students transfer out junior year- insert sarcasm here).  But then during their senior year, it dips back down to 75.  For freshmen next year, they are projecting 100 students for that year.  But that will drop down to 95 the next year.  But inexplicably, the next year’s freshmen are projected at 100 but their sophomore year they will drop down to 90.  I guess you have to make the numbers fit somehow.  This is a far cry from their original charter application which was approved with 600 students by year four.

To see the major modification application, please see below:

No Formal Review For DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security Or Delaware Design-Lab? What’s Up With That?

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.

Delaware Design-Lab High School Parent Complaints Show Disturbing Patterns

On Saturday, after I posted an article on Delaware Design-Lab High School’s major modification request, the Delaware DOE asked me to remove the  parent complaints because of some student identifying information that was in that section of the article.  The DOE has revised the complaints, so I am giving this its own article.  Like I said in the original article, it is very disturbing to see this go on in any of our Delaware schools.  It is more than obvious our new charters need much more training in discipline and due process…

Delaware Charter School Leadership Changes

As the new school year approaches, there is movement afoot among Delaware charter schools.  Some are coming from different states, while others are transferring between different Delaware charters.

William Bennett, a former principal from an elementary school in Media, PA has taken on the role of principal at Delaware Design Lab High School after a shocking exit and settlement from his former school.

Rebeccah Forrest, an assistant principal at EastSide Charter’s middle school is taking over the principal position at Gateway Lab School as Stacey Solomon heads over to St. Ann’s, a parochial private school.

At Providence Creek Academy, Chuck Taylor resumes his former role as head of school due to the bizarre illness Steve Esmond contracted in the Bahamas shortly before he was scheduled to start at PCA.  Taylor left PCA in 2013, went to Campus Community for about six months, and returned to PCA to serve as interim head of school.

Dr. Evelyn Edney, former Dover High School principal, became the principal at Early College High School in Dover effective July 1st.

Former executive director Jack Perry of Prestige Academy in Wilmington has landed a new job as deputy chief of academic enrichment for the Philadelphia School District according to an article in Philly.com.  Cordie Greenlea is the new executive director at Prestige after previous stints in Christina School District and most recently Delcastle Technical High School.

One thing you can say for Delaware charters, they certainly like to mix things up!  As long as we don’t get more like Noel Rodriguez, Sean Moore, or Dr. Tennell Brewington.

Delaware Design-Lab High School Moving Out of Wilmington. Will They Make Their 80% Enrollment?

Another Delaware charter school scheduled to open in August 2015 could be in danger before they even open.  Delaware Design-Lab High School applied for a major modification request to change it’s location from the City of Wilmington to Newark, DE.  Housed in the same area as Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, the charter school is struggling to reach it’s enrollment requirement.

As of April 2nd, the school has 119 students enrolled.  It’s charter requires 240 students, and the school had to meet that figure by April 1st.  Based on the above figures, the school is short 73 students.

Apparently, many of the prospective students come from the Bear-Newark area and parents were concerned about a city location.  From the major modification request submitted to the Delaware DOE Charter School Office:

Now since the request was only for a change in location, the request was approved by the Charter School Accountability Committee, as you can see here:

But the major problem appears to be the required enrollment which they did not make by April 1st.  Based on the report, it looks like the Charter School Accountability Committee was okay with the school getting a month extension until May 1st to “recruit another 75-100 students”.

At the State Board of Education meeting on April 16th, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board will reach a decision on Design-Lab High School’s major modification request.  With that being said, I would also expect them to hold the school accountable for its enrollment as of that date.

I did have the pleasure of meeting the Chief Executive Officer of the school, Cristina Alvarez, at the Imagine Delaware forum at the beginning of last month, and I think this school has some great concepts, but I worry about the academic challenges and potential specific interest conflicts.