My moles across the state are telling me about emails going out to teachers and staff that schools will be physically closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. This unprecedented and historic move is based on the remaining threat of Covid-19 in Delaware. At a press briefing today Delaware Governor John Carney, when specifically asked, had not determined the fate of the school year. But just as that was going on, an email was sent out to Red Clay Consolidated School District teachers and staff about the future: Continue reading
After a lot of back and forth, Delaware Governor John Carney signed an Executive Order to close all Delaware public schools for the next two weeks:
State to close schools March 16 through 27 to prepare for potential spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday directed all Delaware public schools close from March 16-27, to allow schools to prepare for potential spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The following is an excerpt from a letter Governor Carney sent to superintendents and charter school leaders on Friday:
Over the next two weeks, the State of Delaware will work with school leaders and public health experts to create a plan for Delaware students and educators as this coronavirus outbreak continues. We will specifically prepare for the potential impact of extended school closures on Delaware children and their families. Public school leaders should also undertake a deep cleaning of their facilities during the two-week closure.
Delaware children deserve a world-class education, and ongoing access to services that are delivered in our schools each day. Many students – especially those from disadvantaged communities – also rely on school meals for nutrition, and other important social services. We will be working with districts to plan for providing learning opportunities and other meal and social services for our students in the event of an extended closure.
There are two major reasons Delaware schools aren’t closing yet. Equity and special education. It all comes down to the digital learning environment school kids will be exposed to. School districts are worried about potential lawsuits.
For special education, federal IDEA law demands students get accommodations for their disabilities in an educational environment if their disabilities interfere with their ability to succeed academically. With digital learning from home, how would those accommodations happen? Disability Scoop covered this topic today in an article.
The Education Department said that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not specify what should occur if schools are closed for an extended period of time, which is considered more than 10 consecutive days. However, schools should generally offer the same level of services to students with disabilities that they are providing to other children.
As for equity, what about those families that don’t have wifi or bandwidth, or for that matter, computers, for their children to access digital learning from home. That is a huge concern. If they don’t receive instruction how can they even grasp educational material? What happens when the students return and those who were not able to get the digital learning are woefully behind?
These are the concerns the districts are having. And while we are in a state of emergency at not just the state level but the whole country, it does open up the possibility of litigation. But what is more important? Money or the health and well-being of not just students but every single citizen in the state? With all the ed-tech personalized learning, how did these get-rich quick companies not prepare for a day like this? But I digress…
So Governor Carney needs to be the one to make the call according to the districts. But will he? Or will he leave it up to the districts? As the risk and danger to Delaware citizens continues. Don’t believe what the Secretary of Health in Delaware is saying. About schools being safer. They aren’t. It is just a bigger Petri dish.
Meanwhile, parents are left with a choice- do I send my kid to school or not? Some districts, like Christina, are telling parents they need a doctor’s note in order to have an absence excused. So some parents are sending kids in whether they are sick or not cause their kid has too many absences already. It is a dangerous time folks!
With rampant closings brought on by the ongoing Coronavirus saga it is imperative the Delaware Department of Education cancels the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Any longtime reader of this blog knows my thoughts on this worthless and flawed test. But it is here and until our legislators agree to dump it the test will stay here. But this year is different.
As schools in Delaware prepare to close beginning next week for a two week “disinfecting”, the Smarter Balanced Assessment officially began earlier this month. The test is not given at the same time in every school district or charter school. Some last until the end of April or early May. While giving SBAC in Delaware is a federal requirement, the test should disappear this year.
What are your thoughts? Should the Delaware DOE cancel the test? If schools are closed it would be impossible to have kids do it from home as there must be an instructor watching the kids take the test. A Pennsylvania legislator already introduced legislation to get rid of their state test this year. Should Delaware follow suit?
Odyssey Charter School is back under the formal review knife by the Delaware Department of Education following Blue Delaware’s explosive article the other day about board members making racist comments during a recent board meeting.
The Delaware Department of Education released the following statement today:
In response to complaints received by the Delaware Department of Education regarding Odyssey Charter School’s governance, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting is placing the school on formal review. Formal review is an investigatory process that will allow the Charter School Accountability Committee to determine whether the school has violated terms of its charter and probationary conditions of its charter renewal, including Conditions 1A and 1B. Additionally, Bunting condemns the discriminatory statements regarding Academia Antonia Alonso Charter School allegedly made by board members in a recording of a board meeting publicly released.
The Delaware State Board of Education has to vote on Bunting’s recommendation, to the best of my knowledge, which I assume they will tackle at their next meeting this month. I predict they will approve it given the shenanigans their governance has gone through in the past year.
To be fair, it is the AHEPA idiots on their board that are the problem at this school. It isn’t the education students are getting. It isn’t even the school leadership. It is the bizarre almost cult-like behavior of the AHEPA section of their Board of Directors. Here is the bottom line: the AHEPA nuts have to go, period! Anyone, in this day and age, fully knowing the board meetings are being recorded as required by Delaware state code, who engages in vocal crap like this deserves to be kicked off the board. What an idiot!
For those who read about this from The News Journal or Delaware Online yesterday, they were late on the story and appeared to get their lead on this from Blue Delaware. Did they credit Blue Delaware? Hell no! They always leave bloggers out in the cold. Such is the way of The News Journal!
Apparently the school has issued a statement to parents regarding the 2nd formal review the school has been placed on in less than a year:
Communication from Joe Wolcott Board President, Denise Parks Head of School and Riccardo Stoeckicht, Campus Operations Manager
Dear, families, students, and staff of OCS,
Today Secretary of Education Susan Bunting notified the OCS Board that the Department of Education is placing the school on formal review. Formal review is an investigatory process that will allow the Charter School Accountability Committee to determine whether the school has violated terms of its charter and probationary conditions of its charter renewal.
This is a painful process for the entire OCS community and we deeply regret the circumstances that have led to this formal review. The Board is taking the essential first steps to address accountability, heighten inclusivity awareness and provide sensitivity training to better serve our diverse community. We will continue to keep you informed of new developments.
As we continue to move forward and embrace change our focus will always be on the success and well-being of our remarkable student body.
Joe, Denise, Riccardo
In the wake of the IEP scandal at Glasgow High School, ALL of Christina School District is at the mercy of the Delaware Department of Education when it comes to special education. Following the events concerning fake IEP meetings at Glasgow High School that I published in October, the Delaware Department of Education was forced to act. But questions linger about how and why the Delaware DOE was unable to find out before they did. Continue reading
The Delaware Auditor of Accounts office released the Odyssey Charter School Agreed-Upon Procedures report today. The work was done independently by the Santora CPA Group. The full report can be seen below.
The report shows a good deal of financial expenses that could not be explained by Odyssey Charter School. The AHEPA gala, meant to raise funds for Odyssey, netted over $72,000 in cash donations. The charter school only saw over $52,000 and AHEPA kept the rest. Almost $10,000 in earmarked expenses had no justification or reason for what they were. The Delaware Department of Education asked Odyssey to explain this as part of their formal review. An AHEPA conference in July of 2018 had over $3,800 in unexplained expenses.
The report confirmed the Board President, Dmitri Dandalos, who was also the President of the local AHEPA , unilaterally decided on Chatham Bay continuing construction of the Ithaka Learning Center. This was after a feasibility study determined it was not worth it to open up the early learning center. This cost an additional $154,217. The Board voted to pay this in executive session but it was noted in the report that the resolution to pass it in open session had no explanation of what they were paying. But since Delaware charter schools do not get capital expenses and, therefore, no money from the Bond Bill, it doesn’t really matter in terms of the legality of it all. Except it should. Perhaps our legislators can fix that. Even though it isn’t technically state money, it should still be accounted for.
Some of the expenses listed in the attachment section of the report can be easily explained. One of the vendors of the school, The Schoolhouse 302, does professional development for the school. My biggest question about that is why administrators from other school districts are doing a side company. Those administrators are Joseph Jones, the Superintendent of New Castle County Vo-Tech, and T.J. Vari, a district administrator in Appoquinimink. And if they are doing this professional development during school hours, why are they getting paid for that and their duties as administrators for their respective districts at the same time? But I digress…
This report is riddled with expenses spent by Odyssey but did not agree with the amounts reported. That is a very serious issue. Last night I was viciously attacked by someone on Facebook for daring to write something bad about Odyssey. No, I don’t think the school should be shut down. I don’t have an issue with the education they provide their students. From what I have heard, it is top-notch. My issue is with the organizational end of the school. How the board operates and how they spend taxpayer money is a big issue. And it isn’t just Odyssey. It is many charter schools AND districts in Delaware. Odyssey just happens to be in the hot seat for this right now. So is Christina School District on some levels. My biggest problem is how there is no oversight over these things coming from the state. Why does it take putting a school on formal review before the truth comes out? Is there no one watching things at the granular level before it blows up? Like I said, it’s not just charter schools. It is districts too. Both need to be watched very closely. The charters get caught for it more but districts are doing shady crap too. We all know it. They know it. It’s just a matter of time.
I am glad this report got out before the State Board of Education decided on the school’s charter renewal tomorrow night. If I were the State Board, I would vote to keep Odyssey on probation until their actual renewal at the end of the school year! (special thanks to the friend who explained this could be a viable option!)
Public comment sent to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education indicates the AHEPA members of the Board of Directors over at Odyssey Charter School STILL haven’t learned the lesson that put them on formal review in the first place!
This prompted Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams to file Freedom of Information Act violations against the Board of Directors not once, but twice!
Sounds like AHEPA has some explaining to do!
Meanwhile, Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness has failed to deliver the audit investigation into Odyssey Charter School. They informed the school it was “anticipated” by December 15th. It is now December 18th and the State Board of Education is making an important decision about this school in two days at their monthly meeting. Once again, missing information. But hey, let’s give McG a big break because I’m sure she is really busy socializing around Delaware for every opportunity she can get to let folks know she is Kathy McGuiness and some useless facts about the Auditor of Accounts office!
My prediction: further probation for Odyssey Charter School until all the facts come out on this stuff!
The Delaware Department of Education released the 2019 September 30th Unit Count report earlier this month. Special education numbers are rising each year. This is now the 6th year I’ve written about this report. This covers everything: special education, demographics of each district and charter school, and enrollment trends in Delaware’s public education. One of the demographics in Delaware public schools is actually decreasing which came off as shocking to myself. Continue reading
The quickest way to lose special education funding is to lie about holding IEP meetings. Such is the case with Glasgow High School in the Christina School District. If this were one or two IEP meetings that would be one thing. But sources are telling me this could be upwards to 70 IEP meetings. The situation is so bad that the school lost a ton of funding for these special education students.
How does a school hold up to 70 fake IEP meetings? You set them up in the system, set up a date for the meeting, and then do NOTHING ELSE. Who gets blamed for this? Is it Principal Butch Ingram? The education diagnostician for the school? The school psychologist? The teachers? Was the then head of special services for the district, Michele Marinucci, aware of this situation? (Marinucci is now the Head of School at Academy of Dover.) Did the IEP team members actually sign off on IEP meetings that never happened in the first place? Tons of questions here folks!
Sources for this horrible news are laying very low. The situation is playing out but the September 30th unit count report is going to look very different for Glasgow H.S. compared to previous years. That report usually comes out in November courtesy of the Delaware Department of Education. Speaking of the DOE, how long have they been aware of this mess? Why has NONE of this been made public until the scrappy little blogger from Dover had to stick his head out of the sand to write about this?
While I’m sure Christina’s CFO Bob Silber and the other fine district folks are scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to do damage control over this latest debacle, I would hope someone in the district is considering the impact this will have on the actual students with disabilities. How many services will they go without this year because the adults screwed up? For a school that had a little over 15% of its population listed as students with disabilities, that amounts to 114 out of the 753 kids that attended the school during the 2018-2019 school year. That’s a ton of funding for the school to be losing! What say you Superintendent Richard Gregg?
Chances are good this story is going to keep on growing. I’m just breaking the ice here. I have no doubt there is much more going on here.
The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education in public schools. Their system of rating states and, by default, schools is problematic on its best day. Far too much emphasis is placed on the state assessment. In Delaware, that test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for most students with disabilities. We all know it is a horrible test but no one seems to want to change it anytime soon. This is for the Part B determinations. Part C is for children with disabilities aged 3-5 while Part B is for students in elementary up through 12th grade.
The letters to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting can be found as follows:
You will notice some very distinct patterns in the below local education agency determinations for Delaware. No traditional school district met requirements. Those that were labeled as “Needs Intervention” tend to be the larger districts with high pockets of low-income students, minorities, and higher populations of special education students. All the schools that met requirements only serve high school students. I take these things with a grain of salt but it is not a state secret that Delaware special education needs a serious overhaul! As usual, the state education agency, the Delaware Department of Education, is not judged under the same criteria as our districts and charters. If they were, the Delaware DOE would assuredly need intervention.
Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements
Delaware Military Academy: Meets Requirements
First State Military Academy: Meets Requirements
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements
Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements
Academia Antonia Alonso: Needs Assistance
Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance
Campus Community: Needs Assistance
EastSide Charter School: Needs Assistance
First State Montessori Academy: Needs Assistance
Great Oaks Charter School: Needs Assistance
Lake Forest: Needs Assistance
Las Americas ASPIRAS: Needs Assistance
MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance
Newark Charter School: Needs Assistance
Polytech: Needs Assistance
Positive Outcomes: Needs Assistance
Providence Creek: Needs Assistance
Seaford: Needs Assistance
Sussex Academy: Needs Assistance
Thomas Edison: Needs Assistance
Appoquinimink: Needs Intervention
Brandywine: Needs Intervention
Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention
Cape Henlopen: Needs Intervention
Capital: Needs intervention
Charter School of New Castle: Needs Intervention
Christina: Needs Intervention
Colonial: Needs Intervention
Delaware Design Thinking Academy: Needs Intervention
Delmar: Needs Intervention
DSCYF: Needs Intervention
Early College High School: error on web page for letter
Friere Charter School: Needs Intervention
Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention
Indian River: Needs Intervention
Kuumba Academy: Needs Intervention
Laurel: Needs Intervention
Milford: Needs Intervention
Odyssey Charter School: Needs Intervention
Red Clay: Needs Intervention
Smyrna: Needs Intervention
Woodbridge: Needs Intervention
As the clock ticks for a decision on Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, the final public hearing will be tonight. Meanwhile, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), which is the primary reason the school went under formal review in the first place, is begging their membership to come out in support of AHEPAn control of the school’s Board of Directors. So much so they are beginning to sound very desperate. I would urge the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education to use a grain of salt when they read the public comments submitted to them.
From: AHEPA Wilmington Chapter 95 Office of the President <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 11:10 PM
Subject: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
We need to FLOOD the DOE with emails regarding the AHEPA Family’s involvement with the Odyssey Charter School. We MUST retain control for the school to continue to grow with the mission and vision of its pioneering creators! Below, please find instructions on what should be done IMMEDIATELY. In addition to yourself, share with family members and friends so that we inundate the DOE email box with supporting emails.
Click on this link: https://delaware.gov/help/degov-contact.shtml
Enter your name, email, etc.
In the drop down for Category, enter Education
Subject: I support the AHEPA Family majority on the Odyssey Board…..or pick your own subject. But make it stand out that you support the AHEPA Family
Enter your information in the body information
Share this with your friends and relatives. Have your spouse do it too! We need to impact their inbox!
And don’t forget! We need you AND your VOICE and the Carvel State Office Building in downtown Wilmington next Monday, July 8th at 5pm. You must sign up to speak, so please be there before 5!!!
That was solicitation for the public comment. Notice the use of the word “brothers” in the above email. I guess “sisters” don’t get this email. But I digress…
The following email was sent out yesterday to AHEPANs for public comment at the public hearing tonight at 5pm.
From: Michael Kirifides < email@example.com>
Date: July 7, 2019 at 1:44:14 PM EDT
Subject: Fwd: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
From a “few individuals”. Those “few individuals” sure put the spotlight on a lot of individuals, didn’t they Mr. Kirifides! Is that spotlight “hostile” or just making sure the school board follows the laws of the state? Didn’t know it was hostile to point out financial fraud! I hope this formal review puts the AHEPA brotherhood in their place! “May the Lord be!”
***Editor’s note: If you haven’t read or watched “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the references to the religious quotes will be lost on you. For those who do, doesn’t AHEPA sound very much like Gilead?
Today, the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education released the final report for the formal review of Odyssey Charter School. While Delaware media covered a good deal of this, there is some new information. In addition, the Odyssey Board of Directors sent out two letters to the Odyssey Community from the Wilmington Chapter of the AHEPA organization regarding their role with the Ithaka Learning Center that has been the center of a lot of allegations of financial shenanigans at Odyssey. Continue reading
Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down. But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading
After the News Journal reported yesterday that Design Thinking Academy was closing a week earlier than expected, new documents showcase the amount of cover-up that was going on at the Delaware charter school that won $10 million dollars from the XQ Institute. The cover-up concerned a federal grant for funding that allegedly involved fraud by at least four employees who were terminated for their actions. Continue reading
State Rep. Kim Williams is on a roll today! House Bill #182 would get rid of foreign languages as a requirement for a high school diploma in Delaware.
122. Rules and regulations [Effective Aug. 1, 2019]
(b) The Department shall prescribe rules and regulations:
(3) Governing the issuance of certificates and diplomas for the public schools of the State. Rules and regulations on this subject shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education and may not require world language credit ;
I don’t have an issue with this. If a student plans on going to college they should certainly take a language. But if they have other plans post high school, why should they take courses that will not do anything to help them in the future? I approve!
The bill’s Senate primes are Nicole Poore and Jack Walsh while the co-sponsors are Reps. K. Johnson, Kowalko and Osienski with Senators Paradee and Sturgeon.
When the Odyssey Charter School debacle that made Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness look like she was in cahoots with her Greek friends on the Odyssey board became public, it was obvious a change needed to happen. State Reps. Kim Williams and John Kowalko introduced a new bill today that would give the General Assembly, the Governor, the state Attorney General, or the Secretary of Education more power to force the Auditor of Accounts Office to do audits for charter schools:
(4)a. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, may request the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if 1 of the following applies:
1. The Public Integrity Commission makes an advisory finding under § 5807(c) of Title 29 or final finding under § 5810 of Title 29 that a violation of § 5805 or § 5806 of Title 29 has occurred.
2. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly has evidence of a violation of State law or regulation or the misuse of State money.
b. The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if requested under paragraph (d)(4)a. of this section.
c. The audit the Auditor of Accounts conducts or contracts for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section must comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
d. When an audit is conducted or contracted for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section, the Auditor of Accounts shall file a written report containing the information under § 2909(b) of Title 29 with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall distribute the report to the members of the General Assembly and the Controller General and Director of the Division of Research.
The bill’s Senate Prime is Jack Walsh, along with co-sponsors including Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Longhurst, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Smith, and Viola along with Senators Delcollo, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola and Wilson. Some of these names are very interesting, including Smith and Sokola who have long been champions for charter schools. But perhaps they are realizing that Delaware can no longer tolerate the financial malfeasance going on at Delaware’s charters.
The next step for this bill will be the House Education Committee. It remains to be seen if Chair of the committee, Rep. Earl Jaques, will let it be heard before June 30th. If not, it would carry over into the second leg of the 150th General Assembly which begins in January, 2020.
On June 5th, McGuiness wrote a long letter to members of the General Assembly about why she is choosing not to have her office begin an investigative audit into Odyssey Charter School. I don’t agree with her reasoning whatsoever and no one has ever done this before in the Auditor’s office when it comes to a charter school audit.
Shocking documents, never seen before by the public, give a shocking look at what led to the closure of Design Thinking Academy. As usual, it is not based on academics but adult decisions and a corrupt board of directors. Continue reading
On April 2nd, the Delaware Public Integrity Commission wrote a letter to the Odyssey Charter School Board of Directors which showcased a plethora of financial improprieties, conflicts of interest, and co-mingled interests involving their board and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). The Odyssey Board of Directors has nine members, five of which belong to AHEPA. Currently, Odyssey is beginning a formal review by the Delaware Department of Education after the State Board of Education voted to place the charter school under review last week.
The letter concludes with the following: Continue reading
After the State Board of Education put Odyssey Charter School under formal review last night, school leaders wrote a letter to the Odyssey community with a response. In addition, I got my hands on the school’s response to Leroy Travers, the leader of the Charter School Office over at the Department of Education!