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.
Christina, Brandywine, Colonial, & Red Clay Named In Ridiculous Lawsuit Filed By Charter School Development CorporationCharter Schools Development Corporation
The four Wilmington, Delaware traditional school districts are in the middle of a long lawsuit filed against them by the Charter Schools Development Corporation last January. But the lawsuit itself is absurd!
Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of MeDelaware MET
For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education. When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there. You will find out why shortly. I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode. The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself. Different names are thrown around in these emails. Going back and reading these is always fun! The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review. The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails. I wish I could have met Dave in person. I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me. I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it. Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons. That’s my business!
Look For New Charter Schools In Delaware For The 2018-2019 School YearDelaware Charter Schools
The Delaware charter school train is back on the schedule. The Delaware Department of Education is accepting applications for new charter schools. The moratorium on new charter school applications will be lifted once the DOE finished the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities strategic plan. The committee coming up with this has one more meeting (tentatively scheduled for 12/19) and the strategic plan will come out. Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman hinted at the meeting last week that the DOE anticipates at least two new charter school applications.
While this doesn’t mean these charters will get past the application phase, it means the machine is revving its engines again. No new charter schools have been approved for Delaware since the very crazy Spring of 2014 when the State Board of Education was handing out charters like they were candy. The ramifications of their carelessness and haste caused two charters to close. Delaware Met closed less than six months after they opened and Delaware STEM Academy never even opened.
Meanwhile, the settlement between the Christina School District and 15 charter schools will set precedent that all charters will get more money from the tuition tax if they are implementing special education with fidelity. Say what you will about the settlement, but this will provide greater oversight of special education in Delaware charter schools. In my eyes, greater oversight is needed for ALL Delaware schools.
Will Delaware STEM Academy make another attempt at a new school? Last Spring, the school underwent a formal review due to low enrollment for their opening. This resulted in the State Board of Education taking their charter back. Will the Mapleton Charter School try to come back in some form in some town? Last year they submitted a modification to open up a charter school in Dover instead of at Whitehall (a new development in the Middletown area) but rescinded the request and handed their charter back to the DOE.
In my opinion, Wilmington is still saturated with charter schools. More is not the answer at all for that city. Sussex County, with only one charter school, would be my best guess for the next wave of Delaware charters. The way Kendall Massett kept giving comment at the above strategic plan meetings about Sussex districts collaborating to meet programs they couldn’t do on their own tells me the Delaware Charter Schools Network really wants more charters in lower Delaware.
We shall see who applies this year. At this point, no applications have been uploaded on the DOE website, but give it time!
Did My Predictions Come True For The 16 To Watch In 2016?2016 In Review
In December of 2015, I posted 16 articles about who would make an impact on 2016. Did they truly have an impact and did they fizzle out? Many of them did have a huge impact, some fizzled out, and some didn’t do as much as I thought they might. You be the judge!
State Rep. David Bentz: Bentz had a relatively low-key rookie year in the Delaware House. He did get a bill passed and signed that bans the sale of Dextromethorphan to those under the age of 18. He did sit on many committees including Health & Human Services and Education. I expect Bentz will begin to rise in 2017 after running unopposed for his seat earlier this month. He did vote in support of the suspension of rules on the override of the House Bill 50 veto which won him some fast points in my book.
Henry Clampitt: Clampitt became very quiet about halfway through the year. He did help out the Delaware Charter Schools Network with some key legislation surrounding charter school audits. Over the summer he joined the board of Gateway Lab School. I am still predicting he will make a run for Red Clay’s board next year! Clampitt curtailed some of his online activity as well this year. Clampitt can usually be found at the occasional Red Clay board meeting cavorting with some of his friends.
Dr. Robert Andrzejewski: The Acting Superintendent of Christina had a huge year! And not all of it was good. He did help the cash-poor district in winning their referendum but that only introduced other problems. The fifteen charter schools that feed off of Christina students complained they weren’t getting enough money from Christina. After it became public and legislators were swarmed with complaints from parents and citizens, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky backed off the changes that would have given more to the charters. In October, the charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE. Now news comes of a possible settlement. Bob A also had to contend with mold issues at Pulaski Elementary School and soon reports came in of other schools having mold issues as well. He set up an “Academy” at Christiana High School with very poor communication and transparency which led to all sorts of controversy. Bob A also introduced many “cash in the trash” contracts for vendors which the Christina board approved nearly every single time. Rumors continue to swirl about the potential of Bob A getting the Secretary of Education role under John Carney. It could happen which would make a lot of Bob A’s activities make an odd sort of sense. Fattening up his resume or being Bob A? Time will tell.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell: Jack always makes an impact. Whenever I see that smiling face, I know he is up to something. He successfully influenced enough Delaware House reps to vote no on a suspension of rules to override his veto of House Bill 50. But then many of those same legislators voted yes on a suspension of rules for a corporate tax bill. This rightfully earned Markell the wrath of many parents in Delaware. In fact, many of us beat the hell out of him over opt out on his own Facebook page before the vote. Instead of going up to Howard High School and dealing with the death of Amy Joyner Francis, Markell issued a brief statement and merrily went on his Common Core tour at Delaware schools. He pimped the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program every single chance he could. He spoke at a conference on Blockchain technology and announced Delaware would get legislation going so Blockchain firms could incorporate in Delaware. He created the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee while issuing another executive order to create a Pathways Steering Committee that had its first meeting with no public notice. The “Education” Governor won some fancy-schmancy award from the National Association of State Boards of Education. Despite rumors, Markell firmly stated he was never a consideration for a Cabinet post in a Hillary Clinton administration (easy to say after the shocking upset when Donald Trump won the presidency). He continued to appear at press conferences and letters to the editor promoting corporate education reform which pretty much landed with a resounding thud in the minds of Delawareans. As Jack enters his final days as Delaware Governor, I don’t think history will be very kind to his legacy of putting corporations over people. But I will ask one boon of Jack Markell before he leaves his post: a chance to meet with him, do an interview, and get his side of the story on Delaware education. What do you say Jack? One for the road?
Delaware Governor John Carney: Unless you’ve been living in a hole the past few weeks, John Carney won the Governor’s seat by a landslide. Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see who Carney picks for his administration. He has been very quiet (as he was during the election) about what he is going to do. He came out with platforms on various subjects, but they were somewhat vague. As of today, he has only announced two members of his administration. This blogger has reached out to Carney many times with zero success, as recently as yesterday. I don’t want Carney and I to be at odds with each other. We will assuredly disagree on many things, but if he isn’t willing to sit down with me then I fear this will be the case. In education, Carney will have his hands full between whomever he picks for his next Secretary, education funding, ESSA implementation, and a budget deficit which will force the state to begin cutting items from the state budget. I expect Carney will be more low-key on many issues facing Delaware, but he should not be underestimated at all.
Delaware Senator David McBride: McBride was relatively low-key this year, but he did become the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate when Senator Patti Blevins suffered a shocking loss earlier this month to Anthony Delcollo. But this title will not have as much importance since Delaware has a Lieutenant Governor again in the form of Bethany Hall-Long who will preside over the Delaware Senate.
Tony Allen: Allen was all over the place in 2016. State Board of Education meetings, ESSA Advisory Committees, Legislative Hall, and forums kept the Bank of America executive very busy. Allen stood his ground with the Delaware State Board of Education when they kept trying to change the redistricting language. When the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting bill failed to pass the Delaware General Assembly, Allen did save the plan by extending the timeline. It remains to be seen what Carney will do with the plan, especially given that deficit I told you about. Allen is serving on the transition team for Governor Carney. Earlier this month, Allen predicted another segregation lawsuit against the state based on Delaware schools, especially those in Wilmington. Allen did admit one of WEIC’s weaknesses was not including Kent and Sussex County representatives on the plan.
Ashley Sabo: The Red Clay mom of a special needs child had a very busy year. While she continued to fight for inclusion in Red Clay, she also held the district accountable for the lack of communication surrounding the plan. Sabo also adopted a foster child and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate as well as becoming the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Care Coalition. I am very optimistic about Sabo’s future in Delaware and I see her as a rising young star who will become a very important voice for not only students with disabilities and foster children, but all citizens of The First State.
The Delaware Bloggers: It was an interesting year. Three longtime Delaware bloggers closed up shop this year: Transparent Christina, Kavips, and the Delaware Grapevine. The first two dealt with many education issues. For Transparent Christina, the beginning of the end came when the author of that blog discovered Facebook and all the fun he could have on there. Kavips ended his blog earlier this month capping off a ten-year run of what he viewed as “The Progressive Era” of Delaware politics. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the enigmatic one and he will pop up somewhere once he/she gets his/her groove back once Donald Trump is inaugurated. Kilroy’s Delaware slowed down this year but that had more to do with fixing up his house at the beach than a lack of interest. Delaware Liberal provided a healthy dose of election news and dealt with the epic defeat of Hillary Clinton and bemoaned to rise of Donald Trump. A new blog by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne called The Urgency of Now stirred up tons of controversy this year as teachers were blasted constantly on his blog. Another longtime blog, The Colossus of Rhodey, also ended. As for this blogger, now almost halfway through his third year, who knows what the future will bring. One sure thing is that change is inevitable but things stay the same in too many of the wrong places.
The Parents of Delaware Students: The parents of Delaware received a fatal blow when the Delaware House refused to suspend the rules to allow for an override of Markell’s House Bill 50 veto. The Delaware PTA received a hush order on opt-out from their National headquarters. Parents still opted their kids out, but it was comparable to 2015. The Delaware DOE has attempted to corral parents into their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, but I really hoped more parents would attend to lend their voices in opposition to the DOE’s crazy plans. Many parents attended referenda this year as Christina, Brandywine, and Cape Henlopen referendums passed. Not enough Indian River parents supported their referendum when it failed to pass last week. By and large, Delaware parents continue to get the shaft in education policy. I predict the voice of parents will rise in 2017 to unheard of levels. With national and state politics the way they are now, many parents will be pitched against each other with various events. One appointment of U.S. Secretary of Education for Betsy DeVos has already renewed a lot of debate about school choice, charter schools, and school vouchers. These arguments will heat up in 2017. Many parents of students with disabilities (as well as advocates) successfully thwarted an attempt at a very bad special education strategic plan at the Delaware DOE. Parents of special needs children are quickly learning that banding together in unison across various groups is more important than debating their differences. So much so that a two-day planning session for a new special education strategic plan will take place on December 8th and 9th.
Karen Field Rogers: While the first half of the year started very slow for the promotion of Field Rogers as the new Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education, she certainly made her mark in the second half as the Delaware DOE spokesperson at many ESSA meetings. The jury is still out on what Delaware’s ESSA plan will be. I can picture her still working at the Townsend Building under Governor John Carney. She is not really a subject of controversy down there.
Delaware Senator Colin Bonini: Bonini lost his bid for Delaware Governor as many predicted. But he did not do himself any favors by publicly announcing he would lose and continuing to call Carney his friend. Even if you think you are going to lose, you don’t make a spectacle of it. But he did answer a very long survey I gave all the candidates for Governor. Only Carney failed to respond to the survey, and I unintentionally left out Green Party candidate Andrew Groff. Bonini will still be in the Delaware Senate doing his thing, unless he gets a new job in the Carney administration. Whatever happened with Bonini’s recommendation for a Civil Rights Committee in the Delaware Senate?
Harrie Ellen Minnehan: She started the year as the Christina Board of Education President, but lost her gavel over the summer to the re-elected Elizabeth Paige. Minnehan overtly supported Paige’s opponent in the spring school board election. When board member David Resler announced he would not run again, Meg Mason won the election. Mason voted for Paige’s appointment as board president. The Christina board seems to still be at odds over many things but they will have to get it together soon for the sake of the district. I miss the fiery board that stood in unison against the Priority Schools debacle in the fall of 2015. Nothing against Minnehan, but the board lost a bit of that during her Presidency. Paige brings that temperament back to the board and they (along with every other board in the state) need to start speaking up now to fight for what is theirs. I must say, my favorite “HEM” moment in 2016 was when Minnehan blasted State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray during a WEIC meeting in Wilmington. I have no doubt her words were bubbling under the surface for a long time, going back to her days as the President of the Pencader charter school board.
The Delaware Met Kids: After causing a lot of concern in the fall of 2015, the students at Delaware Met said goodbye to the not even five-month old charter school in mid-January. The students went to various school districts and charter schools. But not until they caused enough chaos at the school to get an extra couple of days off.
The Seans: Sean Lynn gave a very stirring speech when the death penalty repeal bill hit the floor of the Delaware House. Ultimately, the House voted against the repeal, but federal rulings rendered the point moot for Delaware executions. Lynn was instrumental in crafting legislation for the WEIC redistricting bills, but the controversial redistricting effort did not pass the General Assembly. He did get several bills through dealing with courts and animal fighting. After a landmark first year in the House where six bills became law, Sean Matthews did not have any legislation signed by Governor Markell this year. But this didn’t stop Matthews from using his voice in support or opposition to many bills. Both Sean Lynn and Sean Matthews won their seats back for a 2nd term in the General Election after facing opposition. This will give them more of an entrenched status in the House. Both had a relatively quiet year, but I expect they will be re-energized and ready to go in January!
Braeden Mannering: The kid who melted Delaware hearts the past few years continued his 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags movement with growing success. In January, Braeden was invited to and attended President Obama’s State of the Union address. Later in the year, he was one of the speakers at a TedX conference in Wilmington. Braeden’s future is bright!
I will be doing this for 2017 beginning in December with those I think will make an impact in 2017. Some will be names seen on this list but others will be new faces.
In Honor Of Delaware MetDelaware MET
A year ago today, I received an anonymous email indicating Delaware Met was closing. The Wilmington charter school opened a month before and it was a disaster from the first day. While the school didn’t voluntarily close, it was on the drawing table that weekend. After confirming this information with a couple other people, I posted the story. Shock followed shock as the public found out everything about the school. The fights, the bullying, the special education problems, the teacher problems, the board problems, and so on. For the first time, since “David Morgan” never got back in touch with me, I am releasing the email I received that day.
I didn’t think David Morgan would respond, but he did.
It would be about a month and a half until I heard from David Morgan again. By that time, Delaware MET was well into formal review. I googled the hell out of the name David Morgan but I couldn’t find any trace of this person anywhere in Delaware. Does anyone want to see more Dave Morgan emails? I’ve tried to reach “Dave” since our last communication in early 2016, but there has been zero response. Let me know!
Charter Modification Update: DAPSS, DE Design-Lab & First State Montessori Get Thumbs Up From DOEDE Design-Lab High School, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, First State Montessori Academy
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?
Charter School Update Presentation To State Board of Education…Hmm…DE State Board of Education, Delaware Charter Schools
In the DOE’s Charter School Office presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, there is a very interesting tidbit at the end. They have a section called “Good News” and there are four charter schools listed: Early College High School, East Side, Family Foundations Academy, and Gateway Lab School. What is the good news?
As well, how are the Delaware Met students doing? Did they all transition or are some still falling through the cracks? The answers are here.
First State Montessori Academy Enrollment Preference Arguments Heat UpFirst State Montessori Academy
On Saturday, I published an article concerning First State Montessori Academy’s major modification request to increase their enrollment and add middle school grades. To say this has been controversial would be an understatement. Public Comment, whether it was on this blog or through the official public comment channel on the DOE Charter School Office website. Last night, the Public Hearing for First State Montessori’s major modification request was held. When the transcript from the hearing becomes available I will put it up here.
At their December 2nd board meeting, First State Montessori talked about forming a committee to explore the option of increasing their enrollment and adding extra grades. The board passed a motion to increase their enrollment by 5-15%. School leader Courtney Fox said they would have to get a major modification request to the DOE by 12/31/15. What is very interesting here is the school leader’s mention of the Delaware Met building next to them, at 920 N. French St. While she doesn’t come out and say it, it is obvious the school is assuming Delaware Met would be closed. The board doesn’t even mention the possibility of adding middle school grades at this point in time either, only adding more Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. As well, Fox, who is NOT a member of the board, announces a future meeting to discuss the possibility of the modification request and increasing their enrollment. Why did the board not vote on this? Does Fox run the board as well as the school?
On December 19th, an agenda for a 12/28/15 board meeting was put up on their website. It indicated their would be an update on the Exploring Expansion Committee. One would assume the board voted at that meeting on their major modification request and to add middle school grades. By this time, the announcement by the State Board of Education over Del Met’s closure was old news. Three days after Christmas is a very odd time to have a board meeting. While the board did do the right thing in putting up the agenda at least a week prior to the meeting, how much ability was there for members of the public to know about this meeting and potentially weigh in on the topic? On the flip side, the State Board voted on the charter revocation for Del Met on 12/16 so the school had to see what would happen with that decision before moving forward. But I still find it ironic there is no definitive plan set in motion earlier in December to add middle school grades to the school and all of a sudden it materializes in their major modification request submitted on 12/30/15.
This is merely conjecture on my part, but we already know the DOE suggested DAPSS submit a major modification request instead of a minor modification request. How much input should the DOE have in suggesting modification requests to Delaware charter schools? And what of Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network who seems to be a intermediary between charter schools and the Delaware DOE? I will be very upfront and say something really doesn’t smell right here. And with all these modification requests coming from charter schools how can we be sure this could not somehow influence the State Board of Education’s vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan?
In the meantime, check out what folks had to say about this hot topic:
Kevin, the interest in Montessori thing is as easy as taking a tour or even talking for a moment to someone from the school in the community. They are at the expo and other events. Have held info sessions at local libraries, etc. It’s easy. The Montessori model is very different. There are mixed grade classrooms, no traditional desks, no traditional homework packets. Very different and something that families and students should be aware of. “Interest” in this case is awareness of the differences, that’s all.
Ask about it – learn about it. Heck, e mail me. This doesn’t cherry pick anything.
Eve Buckley said:
The questions raised in the final comment have been asked since FSMA opened. According to DOE’s “school profiles” for this school year, FSMA students are 65% white and 8% low-income. The two districts surrounding it are 44% white, 35% low-income (Red Clay) and 32% white, 41% low-income (Christina); those figures include suburban regions with less poverty than the city. So FSMA could clearly be doing more to attract and retain a student population more reflective of its surrounding communities (or even of the countywide student population). No pressure in that direction from its authorizer?
Note that Cab and Newark Charter, also very popular “choice” options, also have low-income % around 8. That seems to be the sweet spot for appealing to middle class public school consumers in the area (if you can’t achieve the 2% attained via testing by CSW).
Mike O said:
For families who “choose not to apply” to charters such as NCS or Montessori, I am sure many don’t even realize those are public schools their child is eligible for. Which is how you get to 8% low income without testing
jane s said:
it’s especially sad to see this happening at an elementary school. the goal should be to give children the best start possible regardless of their background. this could be a place that helps children enter middle school and high school on equal ground, but instead it’s just adding to the divide. nothing will change if people don’t speak out.
Eve Buckley said:
I agree! It is really sad–waste of an opportunity.
hi. i think the practices of fsma are fair and comprehensive. interest becomes a priority only because the montessori method is not of interest to everyone, much like a dual-language school like aspira is not of high-priority to many families. if you are to apply to fsma, because it’s a school in your neighborhood, without carrying any interest in montessori principles, then how detrimental will that student be in the classroom? (in terms of congruence, not as a human!) i do not know why the five-mile radius is not ‘more of a priority’, but i believe the admissions process does indeed actively reach out to all areas throughout delaware. it just depends on who researches montessori/has experience with it, and who thinks it is an important addition to the learning process. shown by the small number of montessori schools across the country, and the small classroom size within those schools, one can only surmise that is it not a hot topic among majority of families in delaware or beyond, regardleses of SES, ethnicity or neighborhood. we are ultimately creatures of comfort, and stick to the path most traveled. a school like this, or any other magnet, charter, votech, etc has enrollment because of interest and the desire to trek the brambly, gravel path. please see the good nature of such schools. i know it doesn’t sell like trash-talking does, but in a society deprived of an identity, the journey to recreating one for delaware schools could stand to be a lot less hotheaded. thank you.
John Young said:
No idea who Jenn is, but maybe she should join that sorry CSAC team which appears to olnly authorize losing propositions in DE Charterland. Bet it would be a great fit for a truly dysfunctional organization.
Natalie Ganc said:
I think that a stipulation should be put on all of these charter schools claiming that their school panders to their geographical radius: They should have to go pound-the-pavement (pamphlet in hand) to educate their neighbors to inform them of all of the benefits their child will receive if they choose to enroll. I say this, because I am quite certain that the folks living in the high-poverty areas have no idea what some charter schools are all about.
And from the official public comment section on the DOE website:
State Rep. Mike Ramone Is Going To Ignite An All-Out Charter-District War With House Bill 261Charter-District War, DE State Rep Mike Ramone, House Bill 261
Delaware State Representative Mike Ramone’s House Bill 261 may cause even more controversy than the war of the charter school audit bills! Ramone’s proposed legislation would protect charter schools if they don’t get timely records from school districts when an expelled student or a student who was placed in an alternative school setting for disciplinary reasons choices into a Delaware charter school. The bill would make it so the local school district would have to pick up any costs for that student. This bill is assuredly in response to what happened at Delaware Met. Many students who went to the school were alleged to have been either expelled or came from an alternative school setting.
I see red flags all over this bill. I am already picturing charters not taking these students based on this information. The key word in this legislation is “applies”. How would a local school district know when a student applies to a charter? Of course it is the burden of the charter to request that information. It would be like applying for a new job and my old job would be responsible for proactively sending my references to the new job, prior to my even being accepted at the new job. Using the word “burden” in the synopsis of this bill makes it look like “Oh, the poor charters. The problems they have with those bothersome districts.”
Ramone, you are letting your charter bias shine through with this bill. This could put the stigmatism of “cherry-picking” to a whole new level! I understand the intent here, but this is NOT the way to do it. As well, the proof is in the pudding on whether or not records are sent. This is also a two-way street. Local districts do not always get records from charters in the allotted time period. If you want to further the tensions between districts and charters, this is a great way to go about it. I hope this bill dies a quick and sudden death in the House Education Committee…
A Mentor At Delaware Met Speaks Out About The School Closing & The Impact On StudentsDelaware MET
Tamara Varella worked at The Delaware Met as part of A.J. English’s mentoring team. She reached out to me and asked me to share a post she wrote on Facebook about her time at the school. She offered some insight into what went on at the school from a very different perspective. I think most people are in agreement that Delaware Met was cursed from the onset, but could it have been saved at some point?
This post is to all of my family, friends, followers, current/past/future clients. Thank you to everyone that has checked on me, prayed for me and even slightly noticed my drastic pull back from social media the last 4 months. I more than appreciate you! The DE MET School closed last week, literally 5 months after opening its doors. Back in September I was asked by my client, AJ English to help him transition his after school mentoring program to a full-day in-school program at the Delaware MET Charter School. When I went to the school and saw how great the need was I knew I could not walk away and turn my back on “Our Kids”. I made a conscious decision to put my business and whatever plans I made for my future on complete hold because I personally felt it was warranted and would require that level of dedication. For the last 4 months AJ, Cheris Monique and I have been literally pouring out our heart, tears and soul every day ministering to the students at the MET. It just so happens that the majority of students at the MET were the At-Risk, troubled youth no one wanted to deal with let alone play a role in shifting their lives. Regardless of what you read in the paper or heard in the streets, the students at the MET were not animals or just numbers tied to funding! They were our babies that needed direction and more importantly someone to care enough to show them love and correction. The way God used our team, English Lessons, during this time was miraculous. We have countless testimonies of students changing, improving grades, being respectful to adults, restoring relationships w family members and most importantly getting to the root causes so students could be made whole. Our in-school fight prevention rate was insanely high as we were able to resolve issues, restore respect among peers and instill a level of respect for each person involved in a disagreement that was brought to our attention prior to an altercation. School administrators had never seen this done before. The work we did transcends school walls and was felt in the streets of Wilmington as our interventions involved predominantly “street issues”. Students come to school with issues and problems that the average adult would not be able to handle AND go to school and learn!!! From being hungry to almost getting shot the night before, to fear of getting jumped when they get home, to getting kicked out the house and I could go on and on. If you have not viewed Monique Taylor-Gibbs testimonial of the state of our children in DE Schools I beg you to click the link below or look at my last post.
I’m sharing all this not to gloat but to put a call out to everyone taking the time to read this….. Our kids need US!! Not a new system, not a new program, not a bunch of hype and empty promises. Our kids need YOU!! We won’t see a change in our community, the city of Wilmington or even our state until YOU show up!!! YOU have what our kids need. Your story of overcoming, your story of a shady past and bad decisions, your story of being told u would be nothing but proved them wrong, your story …. which comes with the ANOINTING TO BREAK THE YOLK. This generation is a different breed. They only want to hear and receive from those who can relate. I could go on and on abt the system and how they failed our kids but that would be a waste of time.
Please come back to the HOOD, ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES AND GET INVOLVED!! Thank you to both AJ and Cheris for allowing me to be part of the team. Thank you to all my clients that were patient and understanding. For those of you who were upset about my not doing my workshops, I promise I’ll make it up to everyone! Please keep praying for me as the closing of the school and worrying about the students has me hurt and saddened. This whole experience has caused me to shift internally …. Not clear yet on what that means… But it is definitely time to get back to business. See you all soon!
PLEASE VIEW: Link to Monique’s testimony abt the state of DE Schools
Or you can access it on my last Facebook post.
Delaware Met Shuts Down Three Days Early Due To Threats From StudentsDelaware MET
The Delaware Met shuts its doors three days earlier than expected. Yesterday, the Delaware Met closed it’s doors to students for good. After threats to teachers and administrators including arson (burning the school down), property damage, and physical violence, the school shut down. Delaware Met’s official last day is January 22nd, this Friday. But the students, obviously not caring about any type of instruction the next few days, decided to coerce the school leader into giving them three days off by their actions.
Most of the board members resigned last week. There was talk about a potential lawsuit, but even the school’s own attorney didn’t think it was a good idea. And so ends the five month saga of the Delaware Met. Opened in August, closed in January. The school is under investigation by the Delaware Auditor of Accounts for potential financial issues. It is not known if their management company, Innovative Schools, is also part of that probe. Should First State Montessori Academy get their modification approved for an increase in their enrollment and going to 8th grade, the plan is to take over half of the property at 920 N. French St., where Delaware Met is now.
The Delaware Met had their charter revoked last month by the State Board of Education after violations of pretty much everything. The biggest violation was the lack of correct IEPs for the school’s 59 students with disabilities. Violence, including a student having their hair caught on fire, a student going to the hospital due to head injuries, and numerous fights led to a lot of police activity at the school. While finding one thing to blame on the school for their demise would be difficult, it became more than obvious this was a school that should have never opened in the first place.
New Delaware Met Principal Reached Boiling Point YesterdayDelaware MET
Yesterday, students at Delaware Met got to leave school early…again… With only a few weeks left of school at the Delaware Met, apparently something is going on with their heater system because students are reporting the classrooms are VERY cold. What happened next could only happen at this school where the bizarre and the jacked up seem to be on a collision course every day…
Delaware Met & DOE Holding Information Session For Parents TonightDelaware DOE, Delaware MET
The Delaware Met and the Delaware Department of Education are having an information session for parents of Del Met students. The purpose of this meeting is to give parents options after the charter school closes on January 22nd. On December 17th, the State Board of Education revoked the charter of Delaware Met. This was an unprecedented decision in Delaware to close a school down in the middle of the school year. This is a very good idea, and I am glad to see the DOE and the school working together to make the best transitions possible for the students of Delaware Met.
Prophets & Profits: The Year In Delaware Education2015, Delaware Education
2015 was a transition year for education in Delaware. It was a year of prophets and profits. Many were wondering what was going to happen next while others were making money.
Common Core was around for a few years, but the test that most were dreading was finally here. Parents opted their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment causing Delaware to miss some of the 95% participation rates for different sub-groups. For the remaining students taking the test, the results were a battle cry across the state. Students did not fare better on the test, in fact they did worse than the DCAS. Most people involved in education predicted this, including the Delaware Department of Education. While the Governor, a couple of legislators, and the DOE fought the opt-out movement, the rest of the state rallied behind it and there was no greater symbol for it than House Bill 50. With some touch and go moments, and huge support from the Delaware PTA, the legislation passed the Delaware House and Senate twice with an overwhelming majority in both the House and Senate. As we all know, Governor Markell went and vetoed the bill in July. This didn’t stop the DOE and State Board of Education from putting more knives in parents and schools backs with their twisted and diabolical opt-out penalties in the school report card debacle. The teachers escaped the wrath of the Smarter Balanced results as they received another year off from the scores counting towards their teacher evaluations.
To date, the DOE gave American Institutes for Research $38 million dollars between the Smarter Balanced Assessment and DCAS. Many other companies profited immensely from the DOE’s efforts to “fix” our schools. But the DOE itself lost half of Governor Markell’s proposed $7.5 million increase for the Department. DOE wanted to keep Race To The Top going with their own employees, but didn’t want to maybe, perhaps, send those funds to the classrooms where they are desperately needed. In the end though, the DOE kept most of the employees hired through Race To The Top, even though they are slowly but surely leaving the DOE. Leadership at the DOE changed with a new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky. The former Secretary, Mark Murphy, “resigned” after votes of no confidence from the two biggest districts’ unions, the state teachers union, the state school administrator group and funding for Red Clay priority schools got seriously jacked up. But he “resigned”…
Speaking of priority schools, Christina got to keep theirs, but lost two referendums and a middle school principal named Dr. Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District after Dr. Michael Thomas retired. Christina’s superintendent, Dr. Freeman Williams, went out on leave and shortly after announced his retirement causing the board to hire an Acting Superintendent, former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski. But due to school choice, Christina continued to bleed students who went to charter schools in Wilmington and the surrounding areas causing many to fear for their financial viability by the start of their next school year next fall.
The entire Wilmington education mess brought about a moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington for a few years or until the DOE could come up with a “strategic plan” to figure it all out. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission was born out of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee which recommended all Wilmington schools not already in Red Clay be moved to that district. Brandywine and Colonial nudged themselves out of the deal, leaving Christina as the sole giver-upper of their Wilmington schools. This is, of course, contingent on votes by the State Board of Education and the Delaware General Assembly next year. The biggest issues with the redistricting effort are funding and lack of faith in Red Clay being able to take on all these schools when they can’t handle problems with inclusion and bullying in some of their own schools. The devil is in the details, and the funding detail hasn’t been solved. Ideas such as raising property assessments did not win WEIC a lot of public support. Nor did the near shut-out of representation from Kent or Sussex County. While it is a Wilmington commission, the fact that their ideas would support the whole state and they named their website Solutions for Delaware Schools didn’t help the matter.
A couple of charter school leaders in Delaware made immense profits off taxpayer money…until they got caught! Both of these incidents put Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover on formal review with the DOE and very nasty investigations by the State Auditor’s office. Both survived, mainly because the former heads of schools were given the boot. In the case of FFA, East Side Charter School essentially took them over who was still basking in the glow of their miraculous “growth” increases on DCAS. A point which their leader, Lamont Browne, bragged about incessantly at the Imagine Delaware Education Forum in March. Not able to survive a formal review was Delaware Met, which was given the hangman’s noose a couple of weeks ago by the State Board of Education. The Charter School of Wilmington had an interesting Spring with one student’s discipline issue taking up quite a bit of space on here. Low enrollment woes put new charters Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School on formal review, but they were able to get their numbers up just in the nick of time. Freire’s Head of School “resigned” after violating their own zero tolerance policy against local protesters. As the authorizer of three charters in their district, Red Clay dumped Delaware College Prep but renewed the charter for Delaware Military Academy. The DOE pulled a hat trick and renewed three charters: Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek Academy.
Sussex Academy got a pool. Many charters had their own teacher evaluation systems approved by the Secretary of Education. Odyssey and Delaware Military Academy basically asked the state for more money to expand but they did this through articles in the News Journal which caused State Rep. John Kowalko to tell them it shouldn’t happen. Kowalko, along with many other legislators, opposed the Fiscal Year 2016 budget because of slush funds given to charter schools through transportation funds and performance funds. But what really drew their ire was settlement funds from the foreclosure crisis that were used to plug holes in the budget.
The entire General Assembly dealt with education bills left and right. The most controversial were the opt-out bill and the charter school audit bill. Other education legislation dealing with funding for special education and low-income students, cursive, and recording of all board meetings in Delaware were left hanging until the legislators come back in a couple of weeks.
None of these bills stopped the lobbyists from swarming Legislative Hall like a herd of buffalo. The Rodel Foundation, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable gave their lobbyist say on most education bills. Rodel beefed up their personalized learning game with Student Success 2o25 from their Vision Coalition. Their CEO, Paul Herdman, had a pretty good year. I can think of 343,000 reasons why. All opposed House Bill 50, which drew more negative attention to their organizations. Especially from the bloggers.
Kilroy’s Delaware and Transparent Christina cut back on their output. Kavips brilliantly beat the same drums he/she usually does. I posted a few articles. New blogs entered the Delaware landscape with fixdeldoe, Creative Delaware, and State Rep. Kim Williams’ Delaware First State joining the fray. The very excellent Who Is Minding The Children came and went. Newcomer Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks gave Matthew Albright over at the News Journal some much-needed competition.
A lot of what happened on the national level funneled down to Delaware. The reauthorization of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act created the Every Student Succeeds Act with many scratching their heads asking themselves what the hell it all means. But our DOE was able to line up all their initiatives with what went down in the final legislation, even though they were planning it years in advance. I would love to know how they managed to pull that rabbit out of their hat! Actually, for the education conspiracy theory mongers out there (myself included), we all know how that went down. That’s right, Congress didn’t write the act, the corporate education reformers did. The unions all supported it, but it will come back to bite them in the ass.
Delaware escaped the special education “you suck” rating from the feds it received in 3 of the last 4 years, even though they really did. As standards-based IEPs rolled out across the districts and charters, students with disabilities were put in the toughest “growth” goals of any sub-group in the state with an expectation they would go from 19% proficiency to 59% over the next six years of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Dr. Gray, the State Board of Education President, seems to think personalized learning will get them there.
Parents of Kindergarten students wondered why kids weren’t getting recess and some were getting off the bus with homework. The days of students getting a break were gone in favor of rigor and grit. While the DOE and US DOE claimed each student is an individual, their practices and policies were determined to throw them all together in their proficiency pie.
2015 did see a great deal of bi-partisanship with the opt-out movement in House Bill 50. How the votes go down with the veto override next year will tell the tale on that one. Many stories will either continue or come to an end in the General Assembly based on that vote as the 2016 elections will determine the fates of all the House Representatives and over half of the Senate. Many are praying State Rep. Earl Jaques bows out and doesn’t run, along with Senator David Sokola. This could provide much better leaders for the education committees in the House and Senate.
That covers most of the big moments in 2015. 2016 could be quieter or even messier. All I know is 2015 was one for the record books!
16 To Watch In 2016: The Delaware Met KidsDelaware MET
On December 17th, the Delaware State Board of Education revoked Delaware Met’s charter. Over 200 teenagers, in 9th and 10th grade, will have to find a new school after January 22nd. Most will go back to their feeder districts. Some may go to charters. Some could even drop out. Even though I wrote a lot about the fall of Delaware Met, I truly feel bad for these kids.
I hope whichever district or charter ends up receiving these kids, that they take a very thorough look at what these students will need. And not just academically. We know over 60 of these kids have IEPs. We know some of them are “troublemakers”. But at the end of the day, they are scared. They are facing a very uncertain future. If any of them gained trust with the Delaware Met, it is going to be twice as hard for them to begin again at a new school half way through the year.
It is incumbent upon the DOE and State Board of Education to make sure these kids transition as best they can. They made the decision to open Delaware Met and they delivered their final verdict. The last thing we should want for these kids is for them to drop out and call it quits. They need to know they will be accepted, no questions asked. I am not saying it will be easy for any receiving district or school. But compromise and allowances need to be made for these kids. The Del Met kids will also have to realize their new schools aren’t the free-for-all Delaware Met was.
Chaos Unleashed At Delaware Met YesterdayDelaware MET
Instead of students being somber about their charter revocation January 22nd, they decided to do something else yesterday. This week, the Delaware Met received a new leader in the form of Denise Barnes, a former middle school assistant principal from Appoquinimink. Yesterday, the students took full advantage of the recent decision by the State Board of Education to shut down the school by misbehaving and “jumping”, a slang term for causing fights. The school had no clue how to handle the unruly students, so they shut down at noon. This was not a planned and scheduled day. They just said “School’s over, time to go home.”
Why would the charter, with a model that focuses on personal relationships called “Big Picture Learning”, allow this behavior to continue. And with all the problems, why would they hire a person from Appo to lead the school? Appo and Delaware Met are two completely different worlds. I’ve heard that even though the students had issues with former school Leader Tricia Hunter Crafton, she at least had their respect. She knew how to connect with the students. But as the school has gone through a few “leaders”, the students are running the school.
Delaware Met closes for Christmas break on December 22nd. When they come back in January, they will have a few weeks before they close for good. Who is monitoring what goes on there between now and then? Is anyone? It is painfully obvious that whoever the authority figures are now do not know what they are doing. Are these students even learning anything these days? And what about all their internships? Is that even happening (which was the whole purpose of the school)? The school bragged about their hiring of A.J. English and his mentoring team with English Mentoring. What is going on with that? What is their much vaunted “school climate team” even doing there? The school has bragged about how things have turned around, but just this week alone there was an emergency room visit for a student who got stitches after a chair was thrown at his head, and then the mini-riot yesterday that forced the school to send everyone home without parental notification. Apparently, the DOE was unaware of the stitches incident until well into the State Board of Education meeting the next day. As if not telling the DOE about the stitches thing would have stopped the State Board from shutting them down!
As the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office investigates the school’s finances, many are wondering about what they will find. I would assume they are looking at how funds were allocated, especially special education dollars. Their budget submissions to the DOE during their formal review showed a lot of funds moving around. And if there was any misappropriation of federal dollars, that’s big time! I would also guess they are looking at Innovative Schools role in this unprecedented disaster. How was money spent during the two-year planning period? Did Innovative take advantage of the apparent inexperience of their board of directors? And will we ever find out the mystery of the bleeding meat served at lunch to students?
Don’t get me wrong, I think the State Board of Education made the right decision in shutting them down. But with that decision also comes the responsibility of making sure things run right until that closure. By shutting them down, the State Board is saying they don’t trust the school to make the right decisions for their students. So if they didn’t trust them before their decision, why would they trust them now to do the right thing? With everything going on there, someone needs to look out for these kids.
Key Audio Recording Links From State Board of Education Meeting YesterdayDelaware State Board of Education
Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities. Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Redistricting Plan. Christina Priority Schools. Delaware Met. All are here. Please listen. Please pay attention. Listen to the words that are said by our unelected Governor appointed State Board of Education. This meeting touched on most of the hot education issues of our state in one form or another. Then email your state legislator politely requesting legislation for our State Board of Education to be elected officials.
WEIC Public Comment: Part 2
Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities: Part 3
WEIC Presentation to State Board: Part 5
Christina Priority Schools (about 1/3rd of the way in), Update on Opt-Out Penalties via ESEA Waiver Request with US DOE: Part 6
Delaware Met (starts about 1/3rd of the way in for Del Met) and Charter Renewals: Part 7
The Official DOE Response To The Delaware Met ClosureDelaware MET
Alison May with the Delaware Department of Education release the following press announcement about the historic mid-year closure vote for Delaware Met.
For immediate release
Contact Alison May at (302) 735-4000
DELAWARE MET CHARTER REVOKED
DOE announces path forward for students and families with school closing on January 22
In response to the Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education’s action today revoking the charter for the Delaware MET charter school in Wilmington at the end of the second marking period, the state announced that its staff will meet with MET students and families in the coming weeks to help them determine their best educational options for the second semester of the school year.
The school will close on January 22, 2016. The state will assist the school’s 206 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.
As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.
Families with questions should email Kamilah.Laws@doe.k12.de.us or call 302- 257-3635.
All documents related to the formal review, including committee reports and school responses, are available here.
Delaware Met Charter Revoked By State Board of Education in 4-1 VoteDelaware MET
Delaware Met is finally up, at 5:52pm. Jennifer Nagourey with the Charter School Office is going over the reasons why they are on formal review. Talking about staffing, school discipline, training for staff, criminal activity, lack of an organizational capability, financial viability, and so forth.
Secretary Godowsky said as he looked at the information presented. Talking about special education, school culture, etc. While he is encouraged by the school’s hope to improved, he is disappointed they didn’t use their two year planning period effectively.
Secretary Godowsky agrees with the Charter School Accountability Committee decision and requests assent of the State Board of Education to revoke Delaware Met’s charter and the school to be closed by the end of this marking period, January 22nd.
Dr. Gray is giving the motion. First, Seconded. Discussion. Heffernan: “It’s a mess. There is no excuse for not being ready.”
Dr. Gray is talking about a charter school closure in mid-January. She is asking how it happens? Nagourney is explaining the DOE reaches out to parents to explain the closure process. Heffernan said the feeder schools have to take them back. Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman (for now) is explaining January 22nd would be a natural break for the students since it is the end of the marking period.
Heffernan is asking why this happened. He said in looking at their updates, they were more worried about recruiting students and he didn’t see any real planning for other stuff until this past August. Blowman is saying it is very difficult to open a new school. He thinks there needs to be another look at how they approve schools.
The question is being asked about if the funding will follow the students back to their feeder schools. Blowman said it is the state’s intention to make that happen. Blowman is talking about how 59 out of 59 IEPs were out of compliance. The staffing levels at a maximum got to 3 1/2 to 4 even though they were eligible for 9 units based on the number of special education students on IEPs. There wasn’t enough staff to cover their needs. Blowman is saying an IEP isn’t just a document, it is a federally binding document that governs the services a student with a disability gets in the school.
Melendez is talking about the safety concerns and other students coming to the school. Blowman said at the end of the day, the CSAC was not convinced the climate was getting better. Coverdale is saying a Del Met student is not a Cab Calloway student and the starting point in building relationships with these students is harder when kids come from trauma.
Heffernan is saying this is a very severe action to take but what are the other options. He said he could never figure out how many students left the school throughout this process. Two members of the Del Met board are in the audience. Coverdale is saying he isn’t convinced the kids will be better off in their feeder pattern schools. Blowman said the final meeting with Del Met was 4 1/2 hours long and he is stressing their recommendation was the students will be safer in their feeder schools. Those students would be better served for the remainder of the school year. He said it was not an easy decision to make.
Godowsky said there will be discussions with charters in the area about students potentially choicing into them as well. Heffernan can’t understand how Del Met miscalculated. Heff is asking about how the funding issues even work. He said the funding will be prorated. Nobody knows how much staff is left that are certified teachers. Gray is saying some students who were in alternative schools may not be able to go back to their feeder patterns. Nagourney said Charter School Office is working to make sure no students fall through the cracks. A member of the audience named CEO Hope said “I’ll take them, I’ll take them.”
Donna Johnson is saying many students were misinformed and thought they would have to sit home until the end of the school year based on comments at the 2nd public hearing. Dr. Gray is asking about the written response to the initial public hearing and who wrote that response. Innovative Schools wrote the response. She is asking where the official response is from the school’s board to address the deficiencies in the school. Nagourney said she got something from the board today but it was after the official public comment period. Godowsky is bringing it home and saying every single area of review was a serious problem. He said he came to this conclusion in the best interest of the Delaware Met students.
The Delaware State Board of Education is getting ready to vote…
Gray reads the motion, four yes for revocation, one nay (Coverdale). Delaware Met is done as of January 22nd.
*This article has been corrected to reflect the actual vote of 4-1, not 6-1. Board member Whittaker was absent, and I want to say Melendez or Bunting were not there for the vote.