As The Violence Continues At Delaware Met More Questions Surface

You would think, facing the State Board of Education this week and hoping for a miracle that your charter may not get revoked in the middle of the school year, that you would do everything possible to stop the cycle of violence at your school.  This is obviously not the case with the Delaware Met.  But then again, this is a school like no other because no charters in Delaware have ever had their charter revoked mid-year.  This will most likely happen tomorrow.  But I’m sure this is small comfort for the student who had a chair thrown at his head on Tuesday.  This resulted in a trip to the emergency room and stitches.  With all the additional support this school has put in place: a new principal, school climate officers, discipline staff, and mentors, you would think someone would be able to prevent this pattern of behavior.  But no, not at the Delaware Met.  I don’t know if these students can afford to wait until January 22nd for this school to close.

It is becoming painfully obvious that this school does need to close.  As I’ve said numerous times, you can’t put a Band-Aid on a wound that needs a tourniquet.  I am changing this article to reflect that Kendall Massett and the Delaware Charter Schools Network did actually encourage the school to reach out to other charters.  As well, DCSN did contact other charters in an attempt to help Delaware Met.  I truly don’t know what happened from there, but we are where we are now.  I can say this though, there will be no situation where Kendall negotiates a deal where another charter essentially takes over the school.  I would have to assume that with Innovative Schools huge role in this school (more so than any other charter they have provided support for in the past), that could get VERY complicated.  My apologies to Kendall for my earlier comments!

Under The Radar, Another Delaware Charter May Go Down Tonight

All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours!  The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep.  The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.

If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met.  For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record.  Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states.  Most of them are “mom and pop” charters.  Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.

The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working.  Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers.  I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores.  The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well.  This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices.  We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes.  So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students.  We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.

And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open.  Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use.  Their schools are still open.  Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft.  But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.

Innovative Schools Screws Delaware Met!!!

Tomorrow, we will know the fate of Delaware Met.  The odds are in favor of charter revocation effective at the end of this marking period.  The big question then becomes this: where will the students go?  The last thing these students need is more chaos and uncertainty.  But does Innovative Schools care about that?  Not at all.  They care about their bottom line, not the students.

Can someone please tell me why Innovative Schools gave a tour of the school to Las Americas Aspiras Academy during the school day?  Yes, Innovative Schools MUST get a new tenant for the building.  Regardless of the fact that students and staff in the school are probably having a great deal of anxiety and pressure over the pending decision by the Delaware State Board of Education.  Regardless of the fact that Innovative Schools is just as responsible, if not more, for what happened at this school.  For a charter school management organization, they really suck!  I will have MUCH more to say about Innovative Schools…

Why Are Delaware Met Parents Oblivious To The Police Activity At The School?

In the public hearings and public comment for Delaware Met, I have yet to find any parent going nuts about all the police activity there.  I have to believe at most schools parents would be up in arms about this stuff.  If I were a parent of a Del Met student, I would be asking some serious questions.  Instead, they are acting like the school is the victim.  I’m sorry, but if the school doesn’t know how to act in certain situations, whether they just opened or they have been around for twenty years, than they are the ones at fault.  They KNEW exactly what their student population looked like over the summer and they failed to adequately do something about it until AFTER the fact.

The school’s explanations for the police visits are good, in the sense that they acknowledge what was going on.  But they failed to prevent it.

Wilmington Police Department List Of Delaware Met Calls And Arrests

jail-in

When things went south at Delaware Met, it kept going and going and going.  Like the Energizer Bunny, the Wilmington Police Department kept going and going and going, right to the Delaware Met.  To make arrests, stop fights, collect loaded BB guns, and so forth.  Here is a list of all the times the police came to the school, the nature of the complaint, and the result:

DelMetPolice1

delmetpolice1.5

DelMetPolice2

Wow.  That is all I can really say about this.  Wow.  And yet all these parents are begging to keep the school open…

Tomorrow is the last day to give public comment which you can do here: https://form.jotform.com/52888685884178?

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Kathleen Davies

Behind the scenes in Delaware is a woman who had a VERY busy 2015.  Kathleen Davies is the Chief Administrative Officer at Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  She is the name on all the inspection reports for Delaware charter schools.  Academy of Dover.  Delaware College Prep.  Kuumba Academy.  And yesterday’s Delaware Department of Education inspection (of which they were cleared).  She even has a pending audit investigation with Family Foundations Academy.

These actions did not go unnoticed by one Delaware State Representative.  Kim Williams introduced House Bill 186 (after going through a few revisions) to mandate charters go through the State Auditor’s office when contracting for auditors.  It became one of the lightning rod bills of the season, which prompted Davies to testify to support the bill.  She told the Delaware House Education Committee the situation with the charters was worse than they could imagine.

During this time, the Academy of Dover audit inspection was finishing up.  When the report was released, all the Delaware major media picked up on it.  Former Principal Noel Rodriguez had used well over $160,000 in school funds for personal purchases, along with numerous other egregious activities.  In October, Davies released a report on four charters.  Two were cleared of any wrongdoing, but Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy had some nasty findings.  And apparently, while that was finishing up, her office was working on the report on the DOE!

With Delaware Met’s pending charter revocation, will the auditor’s office step in?  While their closure has more to do with academic and organizational reasons the financial picture is not pretty at this point.  And that whole real estate deal is begging for an investigation.  I hope though, for Davies sake, her charter school audits decrease in 2016!

Delaware Met’s Final Public Hearing Brings Out The Defenders

I received an email from someone who went to the Delaware Met public hearing tonight.  They wished to remain anonymous.  They sent me a very good indication of what the crowd was saying: Save our school!

I went to the MET school public hearing tonight.

All reports I’ve heard: from the News Journal and a student there, were horrible: one kid setting another’s hair on fire; one kid’s head banged into a wall and left a hole in the dry wall; frequent police calls; etc.  In response, the Head of School quit; the Board recommended closing, and then changed their minds;  and the DOE is recommending closing the school on 1-21-16.

But tonight was a love fest.  Only one person from the school’s board spoke; though the guy from the big conglomerate was in the audience.

I was at the hearing from 5:00 – 6:30 and they were still going strong when I left. I didn’t count the number of speakers — probably at least 20.  They were mostly students and  parents.  A couple of teachers spoke, one of whom started work 6 days ago.  Several of the girls were crying; the parents were praising the school, and angry with the State Board.  All thought the school was the best thing ever!  

Most commanding was Councilmember Hanifa Shabazz, who eloquently and angrily “demanded” that the DOE let them know where these 225 students were going to school in January. She and another parent asked to at least extend the closing till the end of the school year. 

A common theme was that the kids had grades of F till they came to this school, and now got Bs. There was also talk about good relationships between students and teachers at the school.  Some students said if they had to go back to a public school, they would probably fail or drop out, or get into trouble again.

None of this addressed the “crime in the school” issue, or the fact that there have already been so many transfers out that the head count is way down, and that could affect financial viability.

If the DOE can’t close a seriously struggling school like this – they can’t close anything.  

But those opposed to the closing have an excellent point – how could the school be approved and accept so many students, without the assurance from the State that it could function effectively?  Can remedial support solve these problems?  That is one of many  questions.

Thank you for sending this to me “anonymous”!  What frightens me the most about all this: no one is talking about special education and how students with disabilities are not having their Free Appropriate Public Education.  For those who don’t know, it’s called FAPE.  It means when you receive special education, you also get FAPE.  But if your IEP isn’t even done, or the school isn’t accommodating your IEP, you are not getting FAPE.  It’s very easy for a crowd to slam the DOE and State Board over “where is my child going to go now” and “this school is so much better”.  I encourage all these parents and community members to read about Delaware Met’s final meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee.  Seriously.  Read it.  These are some key things that make a school work, and Delaware Met isn’t even doing that.  I get the whole community thing and helping each other out.  But this school is dangerous to leave open.  We don’t even know who is running things there now.  Is it A.J. English and his mentoring company? Pritchett and Associates?  Innovative Schools?  Teachers are leaving, and there aren’t many certified teachers left in the building.  It also doesn’t make fiscal sense to send all that money to the school in February when the bulk of the staff aren’t even there anymore.

I completely understand parents being worried about what happens with their child.  I’ve been there, a few times.  And it sucks.  Bad.  But I would rather move my child than keep him in a school that is falling apart.  No matter how much he may love it, I know at the end of the day I have to look out for his best interests.  Delaware Met parents, I have written about MANY schools on this blog.  Many charters.  And trust me when I say that NONE have been anywhere close to the level this school is at.  This is a tragedy beyond measurement.  I blame the DOE and the State Board for many things that I feel are wrong in public education.  But this is one time where they actually got it right.

There is a serious conversation that needs to happen in regards to what oversight the DOE has over charter schools from the time they approve them and when the doors open.  But at the end of the day, the Delaware Met’s board and staff are the ones that failed this school.  Not the DOE, not the State Board, and not the students.  They had a job to do, and unfortunately, they didn’t do it.  You can’t put band aids on a gaping flesh wound.  It may stop the bleeding temporarily, but it doesn’t heal the wound.  Your children deserve much better than this.

Delaware Met Head Of School Quits

After last week’s recommendation by the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee to revoke the Delaware Met’s charter effective January 22nd, 2016, the school’s leader has decided to resign.  Tricia Hunter Crafton submitted her resignation on December 3rd.  As well, the board appears to be in turmoil and an emergency board meeting was scheduled for 12/4/15.  Good luck finding this on their website though.  It doesn’t look like they have been doing much on there at all.  In fact, they didn’t even have a board meeting in November!  One of the board members reached out to me anonymously and explained how frustrated they are with everything going on.

This train is in motion, and barring a miracle, I don’t think anything will stop this school from closing down.  The decision will be made by the Delaware State Board of Education on December 17th.  Meanwhile, surrounding districts and charters are planning for an influx of new students.  Some schools are already balking at taking these  students, even though it is in the students’ local feeder pattern.  These students need to find a school fast, and any district or charter that receives them needs to do so with welcome arms and be very proactive in making sure these students needs are met.  For the special education students, these schools need to be on top of this.  These students have already missed a lot of time, and they need help.

As well, I am very curious what happens with the building.  Delaware Met sub-leases the school from Innovative School Development Corporation who leases it from a company called Charter School Development Corporation.  That company bought the building from the State of Delaware who had bought the building from Bank of America who acquired the building in the MBNA merger back in 2006.  This is prime real estate.  First State Montessori Academy is right next to it, and down the street is the Community Education Building, which currently houses three charter schools.  This is all in downtown Wilmington.  In fact, the building is right next door to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office!  The bizarre part with this whole funky real estate deal was that Innovate Schools donated $1 million dollars to the Charter School Development Corporation prior to leasing the 920 N. French St. location from them for Delaware Met.

Hunter Crafton joined the Delaware Met last Spring.  In the third week of September, she went out on maternity leave and returned in mid-November.  She was only back at the school for a few weeks before quitting.  While she is leaving, I am hearing some of the board members are gearing for a fight of some sort.  I don’t think this is going to be as easy as the Delaware DOE seems to think.

CraftonHunter

 

Why Won’t Matt Albright Call It “The Smarter Balanced Assessment”? Are These Toxic Words Now For Jack Markell?

I have to crack up when I read the News Journal these days.  In an article about school funding, Matthew Albright with the News Journal started talking about how city kids did on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But he doesn’t call it by name.  This is what he says:

On the state’s tough new standardized test…

Call it by name Matthew Albright! It’s called the Smarter Balanced Assessment!  Did Markell call you guys and tell you to call it that cause he doesn’t want people Googling “Smarter Balanced Assessment”?  Too bad Jack!  They can come here to read the actual words.  Own it News Journal!  Own it Jack!  Especially since Jack said it was “the best test Delaware ever made” last summer at New America.  I also see the words Common Core starting to fade in favor of “the state standards”.  Stop pussy-footing around and take ownership of the monster you created Jack!

Hey Jack, why no comment on the Delaware Met?  You certainly had a lot to say about the priority schools, but we have a school where a student had their hair put on fire and you go strangely mum.  Would that be because you don’t want people to see this as YOUR failure?  Along with the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Hey Jack, how is it going?  Seriously.  We never talk.  What are your plans after you leave your Governor job?  Inquiring minds want to know.  I know you’ve been busy.  You know, working the rounds so to speak.  Making calls.  I get it.  You have your plans, and you will do anything to get them completed.  I get that.  Don’t agree with whatever you are planning I’m sure, but I understand.

By the way Jack, opt-out season is fast approaching so I may jump ahead on it this year.  I look forward to the new crazy ideas you come up with in 2016 to try to stop opt-out.  They will fail, and I will laugh, but I admire your attempts.  It reminds me of a phrase from “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it wings”.  Or something like that.  You can equate that with the opt-out movement any way you like.  Are your opt-out guard dogs ready?  They have a big season ahead and they will need to be at the top of their game.

I emailed you the Santa Claus opt-out proclamation, but I didn’t see a response.  Maybe you sent one to Santa.  Good luck trying to turn that guy over to your side!  He sees greed 22,000 miles away!  I don’t think Santa is going to opt out of liking opt-out Jack.

I posted some old videos you put up from your 2008 campaign for Governor.  Love how you talked about the horrible Delaware student test and how bad it was and teachers need to teach and not to the test.  You have come a long way since then Jack.  I’m not sure how this went from the News Journal to you Jack, but what the heck!  It’s a Saturday night (at the time of this writing), I’m tired, and I like free-writing sometimes.  No research, just letting it flow.  Alright, if I’m talking about writing, it’s time to bid adieu.

Delaware Met’s SHOCKING Final Meeting With DOE Is FILLED With VERY EGREGIOUS SCHOOL CRIMES!!!!!!

I knew things were bad at Delaware Met.  I knew things I was unable to confirm officially.  But the reality, and other things I didn’t know about…

Below are just a few of the things said during Delaware Met’s final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee on 12/1/15.  This is a must-read!  If you ever want to open a school, I would highly recommend doing the opposite of what Delaware Met did, and you should do great!  Below these quotes is the full meeting notes.

Ms. Ogden also noted that the school was not prepared for the unannounced monitoring visit, as there were active files on the table and a flash drive was lost in the first room the DDOE staff monitored. She also added that, during the DDOE monitoring visit, an event occurred which set off the fire alarm and resulted in evacuation from the building and no access to the special education resource room on the second floor where the active special education files were stored. Ms. Ogden stated that “the second floor was condemned.”

 

She added that the lessons plans are for middle school, more specifically early middle school, although The Delaware Met is a high school.

 

 

Mr. Blowman commented that the School Leader should be able to go out on maternity leave without the school falling apart. He noted that these issues point to massive weaknesses in the school’s organizational model.

 

Ms. Nagourney requested clarification whether the Board took action during meetings that were not publicly noticed.

 

Ms. Massett said that wanted the record to reflect that the school did not reach out to the charter community for assistance.

 

She specifically noted that the list stated that a bullet was found in one of the classrooms and asked the school why it did not contact the police in that instance.

 

She indicated that she was fearful about safety in the school when reading about BB guns and tasers.

 

However, she expressed disappointment that the school listed two calls for severe student disruption despite seven different instances leading to nine arrests being listed in the information provided by WPD.

 

She identified several incidents, including a student’s hair being set on fire, an assault, weapons being brought to the school, near riots, and threats toward staff members as severe disruptions.

 

And when a school fails to meet multiple standards and fails to create a safe and appropriate environment in which students can thrive, it warrants serious action.

 

The motion carried unanimously.

 

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Jennifer Nagourney

Jennifer Nagourney serves as the Executive Director of the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  To say she had a hell of a year would be an understatement!  Nagourney’s role is to oversee the charter schools in Delaware and to make sure they are in compliance on academic, financial, and organizational performance frameworks.  When a charter school has issues, she is one of the main DOE people who determines what type of action to take.  Her office works with all of the other offices in the DOE.

2015 started off with a bang in the form of Family Foundations Academy.  After former Heads of School Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington got caught with their hands in the school finances cookie jar, the Charter School Office put the school under formal review a year ago.  After a whirlwind amount of speculation, the school’s board and leaders was essentially taken over by East Side Charter School.  A few months later, no less than four Delaware charters went on formal review: Academy of Dover, Prestige Academy, Delaware Design-Lab High School, and Freire Charter School.  All came off formal review status but they are all on probation.  Two were new charters scheduled to open in August who received the designation due to low enrollment which affected their financial viability.  Two were for academic reasons, and of those two one was for their former school leader embezzling from the school (Academy of Dover’s Noel Rodriguez).

As the 2014-2015 school year ended, two charters officially closed due to charter revocation decisions by the Delaware State Board of Education.  Moyer and Reach Academy for Girls closed their doors forever, but five more were opening up in August: Delaware Design-Lab High School, Delaware Met, First State Military Academy, Freire Charter School, and Great Oaks Charter School.

Towards the end of September, issues started to rise with one of the new charters, Delaware Met.  After the school was placed on formal review by the State Board in October, the Charter School Accountability Committee voted yesterday for a recommendation of charter revocation at the end of this marking period, in January 2016.

Earlier in the year, with all of the charter movement, as well as the designation of the sixPriority Schools in Christina and Red Clay, the Wilmington Education Advisory Commission recommended a charter moratorium in Wilmington until the state could come up with an action plan for charters in Delaware.  This became legislation in the Spring, and this all morphed into the current Wilmington Education Improvement Commission which is leading a redistricting effort in Wilmington.  While charters don’t make the news a lot coming out of this, they are certainly a part of any plans that come out of the commission.  The State Board of Education will vote on this in January 2016.  Meanwhile, the DOE and the State Board are working on the Statewide Resources for Educational Opportunities in Delaware to determine how all schools in Delaware can best serve their students.

Due to the events at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, House Bill 186 caused controversy in the Spring.  Introduced by State Rep. Kim Williams , Hosue Bill 186 dealt with how charter schools are audited.  The bill morphed a couple of times into the final bill which passed the House in June and will land in the Senate Education Committee come January.  As well, State Rep. John Kowalko openly and publicly opposed the Charter School Transportation Fund and the Charter School Performance Fund.  Rep. Williams also introduced a bill to make sure if a charter school student transfers mid-year to a traditional public school district, the money would follow the student.  That bill has not even been heard by the House Education Committee, over ten months after its introduction.  I’ve heard rumblings of legislation which would make sure traditional districts send timely information on students that transfer to charters, especially in regards to IEPs and discipline.  Which is fine in theory, but there is a caveat in the potential legislation about the districts paying for the funding if the charters don’t receive that information in a timely fashion.  That will be a bill to watch in 2016 if it garners enough support to become potential legislation.  It will be a lightning rod of controversy between the pro and con charter crowd in Delaware.

All of this charter school activity has certainly kept Nagourney and her staff on their toes at the DOE in Dover.  With a staff of four, this is a great deal of work for this office.  Add in modifications, performance reviews, special education compliance, standardized testing, and leadership changes among the charters in 2015, Nagourney definitely had her busiest year ever at the DOE.  It is no secret I have issues with many concepts behind charter schools as well as the DOE, but I believe the Delaware DOE has come a long way in terms of monitoring the charters and taking action when needed.  This can all be attributed to the leadership of Jennifer Nagourney.  While her name doesn’t get thrown around in the media the way Secretary Godowsky or even Penny Schwinn does, make no mistake that Nagourney is one of the busiest leaders at the DOE.  I am hoping, for her sake, that 2016 does not throw as many challenges her way.  In fact, the Charter School Office is taking another look at how the Organizational part of their charter performance framework is made up and a working group will be starting to make recommendations on this.

Nagourney, in my opinion, is one of the strongest leaders at the Delaware DOE.  This is not an honor I usually give to anyone down there!  At least there is only one charter opening up next year in the form of Delaware STEM Academy.  I am pretty sure the DOE will be watching very carefully at how any new charters use their planning period between approval and opening to make sure a Delaware Met never happens again!  My biggest wish for this office to carefully monitor special education at Delaware charters.  I’m sure that falls under the watch of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE, but I can say with certainty they are missing a lot.  It is not every charter, but it is far too many.  I have tons of issues with special education as a whole in Delaware, but some charters do not even know the most basic fundamental aspects of special education laws.

Underneath all of this is a potential ticking time-bomb in the form of the ACLU and Delaware Community Legal Aid complaint to the Office of Civil Rights a year ago.  This complaint alleged certain charter schools discriminated against minorities and students with disabilities in their application process.  If it becomes a law suit, it would be against the State of Delaware and the Red Clay Consolidated School District who is the only district charter school authorizer in the state.  Information was sent to that office in February this year, but no ruling has come down since.  This could happen at any time.

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 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.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

Breaking News on Delaware Met: Charter Revocation Recommendation By End Of Next Marking Period

The Delaware Met had their final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee this morning.  The group’s final recommendation: charter revocation by the end of the next marking period! Which would bring this school to a close by January 22nd.  Of course, the Delaware State Board of Education has to also vote on this, which they will at their meeting on 12/17.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the meeting, but I will report details once I receive them.

The group said the Delaware Met violated the terms of their charter.  The school opened in August after a one-year delay approved by the DOE.  Charter closures are serious business.  I feel bad for all the students and parents who made a choice to go to this school.  It looks like they will need to start searching again.  I didn’t wish for this school to close.  I really hope any school can do the right thing for their students.  In this case, I don’t think the school had the capability and the means to effectively run this school.

A great deal of the student population at Delaware Met came from Moyer, which also had its charter revoked during the last school year.  As well, the school has over a quarter of their population as special education students with IEPs.

Delaware Met’s Appalling Response To The DOE Raises Even More Questions

In spite of a very intensive hiring process, we were unable to find many teachers with urban experience or a familiarity with the local community and those that we did hire were from charter schools that had closed such as Moyer Academy. Those teachers brought with them the “alternative school” mentality, along with lingering conflicts from the past years, which perpetuated the punitive, authoritarian mindset, which is the antithesis of the BPL design. We had hoped that the past relationships with the students would have a positive effect on their relationships with students, though this was not the case.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse with Delaware Met, I ran across many updated documents on the Delaware Department of Education Charter School website regarding their formal review.  The number one issue at this point seems to be their enrollment.  If they were approved for 260 students, and they must maintain 80% of that as required by Delaware law, that would be 208 students.  As of their September 30th count, they had 215 students.  In these documents, they announced four more students have withdrawn since 9/30, and six more will withdraw from the school very soon.  This puts their enrollment at 205.  They are now completely out of compliance with their charter.

The letter from the Delaware DOE’s Exceptional Children’s Resources Group is very telling.  59 IEPs were looked at by the DOE, and ALL 59 are out of compliance.  Delaware Met’s Special Education coordinator, Sue Ogden, used to work in the Delaware prison system as a special education coordinator, so she should be well aware of DOE timelines and what is needed in student’s IEPs.  While the below documents give many reasons for the school challenges, I still can’t help but think many of the events at this school could have been avoided.  It is now near the end of November, and NONE of the IEPs are in compliance as of November 25th.  This does not bode well for students with disabilities at this school which now represent over 28% of the school population.  Furthermore, in the narrative in the documents below, there is talk about going through 80 IEPs.  Have 21 students with disabilities who had IEPs left the school?

For their in-school suspension, students are required to write the following:

DelMetBehaviorLesson

And another “behaviour lesson”:

DelMetThinkingAboutBehavior

Now, with a school filled with at a minimum, 59 IEPs, and admitted issues on teacher parts where they treated a school like an “alternative” school, are the in-school suspensions warranted?  I can’t answer that, but I do know in-school suspension does not count towards a manifestation determination hearing.  Only out-of-school suspensions or expulsion.  And is it just me, and I get the whole concept of restorative justice, but isn’t the point of school discipline already a punishment?  What could a student do to “make up to the school” for their behavior?  What if they have a disability and it was a manifestation of their disability and they don’t even realize it was a “behavior”?

This “in-school suspension room”.  I have some big issues with it.  It seems like an easy solution to stop discipline problems.  Student gets in trouble, send them to the ISS room.  The below documents also state their special education coordinator, Sue Ogden, will make sure accommodations are being followed while students are in there.  But is one of their accommodations to be sent to an ISS room if they get in trouble?  There are more questions than answers here.  Sue Ogden, as I stated earlier, used to work in the prison system.  Even with all its issues and students with potential legal issues, the Delaware Met is not a prison.

The Charter School Accountability Committee will meet with Delaware Met for their final formal review meeting next Tuesday, from 8:30-10:00am.  At this point, the committee will determine their recommendation for the school.  The Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education will decide the school’s fate at the December State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.  In the meantime, read the below documents to find out the school’s interpretation of events.  I still have this nagging feeling there is much more going on at this school…

Delaware Met response to Charter School Accountability Committee

Specific Information requested by the Charter School Accountability Committee

Exceptional Children Resources Group monitoring and letter sent to Delaware Met

Teachers Emails regarding Science and Social Studies Curriculum

Board of Directors questions to Innovative Schools with response from them

 

 

The Truth Is Out There With Delaware Met: Public Hearing Transcript Sheds Some Light

The Delaware Met had their public hearing for their formal review on 11/16/15.  Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education released the transcript.  One thing is for sure: the words “blogs”, “blogger”, or “bloggers” were mentioned 8 times in the transcript.  I was glad to see two members of the Delaware State Board of Education attended this event.  Instead of writing about the public hearing, I’m going to let the people speak.

I feel like three months of my son’s education has been wasted because he hasn’t done much work, not many projects

I’ve tried to contact teachers with no response

…when we hear some of the horror stories that are going on with these kids, a lot of times, schoolwork might be the last thing on their mind, because a sibling was just killed three months ago, or they’re dealing with being displaced, you know, homeless.

For whatever reason, they opened the doors up and let a lot of kids in that probably didn’t fit the model and didn’t really understand what the model was.

Whatever bugs you all didn’t iron out first, go back to the drawing board, fix it.  As they say, you got a hole, plug it.

But we don’t get the connection from the people who are in charge, the charter school or whoever is in charge of the charter school, and the parents, there’s no connection.

…the biggest question is who is this management organization, Innovative Schools, and why does it seem that they have been an impediment to this process?  We know that starting something new often is a rocky start, but it seems like the people who are supposed to know about education in this case don’t know anything about education.

It is disturbing that some of the things that should have been in place from the first day still aren’t in place, and we’re still struggling to try to get some open communication.  I think it’s interesting that a lot of parents are here, but I don’t see too many of the administrators.

So I think we need to look into it further versus basing it upon opinions of bloggers and individuals who have not been to the school to visit firsthand to see exactly what’s going on versus reading the emails that are being sent.

I don’t know who blogs.  It has to be somebody in the school.  It has to be somebody in the schools that’s giving out certain information that, you know, that I know some of the students is not giving out, I’m thinking it’s probably one of the teachers that don’t like and are trying to sabotage the whole school.

And whoever the blogger is, they need to mind their own business.  We already know there’s an issue.

Do you all understand how bad that sounds to a kid when they go to school, the teacher says we don’t have to learn because they’re closing the school next year.

Help us out.  Give the school some funding.  You all keep talking about you don’t have money, or whoever, they don’t have money to put this in, put that in.

When you open something up, if you put a different animals in one cage, you’re going to have problems until you get somebody in there that knows how to train everybody.

And again, the story writers, the bloggers, whoever is doing this, saying what they want to say to make it, solidify what you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to close the school down, I mean, of course.

What kind of school around here has a mentoring program?

And I went to Mr. A.J. and he told me that, you know, I can guarantee you the school is not going to shut down and everything like that.

I got at least three trays in one day for lunch, and all the meat was bleeding, but I couldn’t get nothing brown bag.  I don’t understand.  These teachers going out, buying McDonald’s and all that, but we can’t do that because of other stuff.

And we have some teachers that don’t even come to school, and I don’t even know how my report card going to look.  I’m not a bad kid.  I know my report card going to look okay in other schools, but this school, I don’t know.

Okay, what is up with the “blame the blogger” game for a school going on formal review?  Trust me, the Delaware Department of Education is not going to put a school on formal review because of information I write about.  By the time I’m writing stuff, they most likely already know a great deal of the information.  The things I’ve heard coming from this brand new school, that had two years to work out all the kinks, disturb me on many levels.  This is a school that stated their budget for food is going to be over-budget.  If they aren’t cooking the meat correctly and students keep going back for non-carcinogenic food that is actually cooked all the way through, I can see why that would be.  If teachers aren’t showing up or they don’t know how to teach the curriculum, that is troubling.  What kind of school lets other students show up to the school without any type of security system to prevent that?  This school has already received plenty of funding, from the state and from the Longwood Foundation.  Throwing more money at it isn’t going to solve anything.  They will find some way to squander those funds.  Plenty of schools have mentoring programs, and A.J. English knows that.  I am always suspicious of anyone that may have a financial motive to keep a school open.  The school may know about the issues, but parents and the public may not.  That is why I blog.  Do you want to know the words I was looking for the most in this transcript and I didn’t see mentioned anywhere? Special Education, IEP, and disability.  How can you defend a school and not even talk about their biggest problem?  Innovative Schools is in way over their head across the entire state.  Other new charter schools that relied on them are having issues as well.  I don’t want any school to shut down unless it is bad for students in the short-term and the long-term.  I believe Delaware Met fits in both of those categories.

I know some people think I just write whatever I want and call it a day.  That is not the case.  There are things I could write about this school but haven’t yet.  The assumption that I haven’t been in the school must mean I don’t know anything about it.  Wrong.  I know plenty.  I went to their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  I heard the many questions Delaware Met and Innovative Schools couldn’t answer.  These are key and essential questions that need to be answered AND fixed, or they should close.  But let’s get one thing straight, unless the school is posing an immediate health risk or students are in danger, the DOE and State Board of Education don’t just shut a school down.  They go through the process, and the likely options are: probation, revocation of their charter at the end of the year, or they rule the school is doing just fine.  I’ve taken other steps as well in light of things I’ve heard about this school.  It is obvious Delaware Met has sent information out saying “Don’t believe the blogger.”  That is their prerogative.  I just ask folks to keep an open mind and ask the questions.

To read the entire transcript, please read below.

Delaware Met Teacher Defends…I Don’t Know What, Trying To Wrap My Head Around This One…

Sometimes a comment just screams “I want my own post on this”!  This one definitely deserves a focus.  I posted last night about student comments at Delaware Met’s formal review public hearing.  Never in a million years did I expect an actual response from someone at the school.

DelMetComment

Charter Update To State Board of Education Puts 8 Charters At “Tier 3” Status

The Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education will give a presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, November 19th.  Among other things, they have rated charters on a scale of 1-3.  These tiers will have 1 being good, 2 some issues, and 3…not so good.  The charters at the Tier 3 status are Academia Antonio Alonso, Academy of Dover, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Odyssey Charter School, and Prestige Academy.  This list does not include the charters that opened this year because there is nothing to compare their organizational and financial frameworks to.  But even though Delaware Met and Delaware Design Lab are not on this list this does not mean they aren’t in trouble.

Delaware Design Lab High School is on probation following their formal review last year for low enrollment before they opened.  The school did get their enrollment up, but according to this report the Charter School Office is reviewing their budget and enrollment and are on some type of corrective action.  Delaware Met is on formal review for pretty much everything not even three months after they opened.  One interesting observation was their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting has been changed from November 30th to December 1st.  I would imagine this is because the DOE has to face the Joint Finance Committee over at Legislative Hall on the 30th.    It looks like the Charter School Office will be pushing more involvement with parents at the charters with Parent Teacher Organizations.  Parent involvement is never a bad thing!

Delaware Met Moms, Dads, Students, & Teachers: Make Your Voice Heard!

Monday night is the Formal Review Public Hearing for the Delaware Met.  It starts at 5pm at the Carvel State Building, on the 2nd floor.  It should be easy to get to because it is right next to the school, across the street to the right of the school.  This is the time to let the Delaware Department of Education and the world know what is really happening there.  If you have been bullied, or your kid is not getting the special education they rightfully deserve, or you have not been given due process, or you just have some thoughts to get out, THIS IS THE TIME!!!!  Do not let this opportunity go to waste!

Secretary Godowsky Gives Lame Response To Shutting Down Delaware Met

This morning, after hearing even more things going on at Delaware Met, I took a drastic step and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and pleaded with him to close Delaware Met down for good.  I also cc:ed Governor Markell, his education policy advisor Lindsay O’Mara, Attorney General Matt Denn, other leaders at the DOE, and every single legislator in the 148th General Assembly.  His response was very shocking given the nature of the email.  The responses I got from legislators had more meat than what Godowsky had.


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 10:39 AM
To: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Matthews Sean <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Lynn Sean M <sean.lynn@state.de.us>; Baumbach Paul <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Bennett Andria <andria.bennett@state.de.us>; Schwartzkopf Peter <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Jaques, Jr Earl <earl.jaques@state.de.us>; Potter, Jr Charles <charles.potter@state.de.us>; Bolden StephanieT <stephaniet.bolden@state.de.us>; Paradee Trey <trey.paradee@state.de.us>; Keeley Helene <helene.keeley@state.de.us>; Brady Gerald <gerald.brady@state.de.us>; Smith Melanie G <melanie.g.smith@state.de.us>; Heffernan Debra <debra.heffernan@state.de.us>; Short Bryon <bryon.short@state.de.us>; Short Daniel <daniel.short@state.de.us>; Johnson Quinton <quinton.johnson@state.de.us>; Johnson JJ <jj.johnson@state.de.us>; Hensley Kevin S <kevin.hensley@state.de.us>; jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us; Hudson Deborah <deborah.hudson@state.de.us>; Mitchell John L <john.l.mitchell@state.de.us>; Longhurst Valerie <valerie.longhurst@state.de.us>; Bentz David <david.bentz@state.de.us>; Mulrooney Michael <michael.mulrooney@state.de.us>; Smyk Steve <steve.smyk@state.de.us>; Ramone Michael <michael.ramone@state.de.us>; Miro Joseph <joseph.miro@state.de.us>; Osienski Edward <edward.osienski@state.de.us>; Viola John <john.viola@state.de.us>; Carson William <william.carson@state.de.us>; Outten Bobby <bobby.outten@state.de.us>; Peterman Jack <harold.peterman@state.de.us>; Sokola David <david.sokola@state.de.us>; Townsend Bryan <bryan.townsend@state.de.us>; Yearick Lyndon D <lyndon.yearick@state.de.us>; Wilson David L <david.l.wilson@state.de.us>; Kenton Harvey <harvey.kenton@state.de.us>; BriggsKing Ruth <ruth.briggsking@state.de.us>; Gray Ronald <ronald.gray@state.de.us>; Dukes Timothy <timothy.dukes@state.de.us>; Collins Richard G <richard.g.collins@state.de.us>; McDowell Harris <harris.mcdowell@state.de.us>; Henry Margaret Rose <margaretrose.henry@state.de.us>; Marshall Robert <robert.marshall@state.de.us>; Lavelle Greg <greg.lavelle@state.de.us>; Cloutier Catherine <catherine.cloutier@state.de.us>; Lopez Ernesto B <ernesto.lopez@state.de.us>; Blevins Patricia <patricia.blevins@state.de.us>; Peterson Karen <karen.peterson@state.de.us>; Hall-Long Bethany <bethany.hall-long@state.de.us>; Poore Nicole <nicole.poore@state.de.us>; Pettyjohn Brian <brian.pettyjohn@state.de.us>; McBride David <david.mcbride@state.de.us>; Ennis Bruce <bruce.ennis@state.de.us>; Lawson Dave <dave.lawson@state.de.us>; Colin J. Bonini <senator-colin@prodigy.net>; Bushweller Brian <brian.bushweller@state.de.us>; Simpson Gary <gary.simpson@state.de.us>; Hocker Gerald <gerald.hocker@state.de.us>; Richardson Bryant L <bryant.richardson@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>
Subject: Delaware Met

Dr. Godowsky,

I know we have been at odds over the whole Delaware School Success Framework, but I implore the Department to act immediately with regards to The Delaware Met.  This place is an obvious danger to students and staff, and the DOE needs to shut it down immediately.  The issues there are getting worse, and the DOE needs to act now.  Not in December at a State Board of Education meeting, and not at the end of the year should their charter be revoked.  I completely understand this is a very delicate situation, but student and staff safety need to come first.  With all the information I have heard, I believe there to be a clear and present danger in that school.

I am calling for others to reach out to you on this as well.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


Here I am, reaching out in good faith to them, and they know I know what is going on over there.  I would think the words “clear and present danger” would warrant something other than the response I got from Dr. Godowsky.  But no, the typical Delaware response which says “I read your email.  I’m not going to do anything about it Chicken Little, but you should feel lucky I bothered to respond.  That’s more than Mark Murphy ever did.”  Okay, it didn’t really say that, but that’s how it felt.  No, this is what I got:


From: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
To:
Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 1:38 PM
Subject:
RE: Delaware Met

Kevin,

I appreciate the notice. Thank you.

Steve

Steven H. Godowsky

Delaware Department of Education

Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us


Gee, thanks Steve.  No action plan, or even a “We will look into it” or any questions.  Nothing.  And they wonder why I blog about the DOE so much.  Are these people that arrogant and condescending to think they are above the rest of us and aren’t accountable for their actions?  They want to lord it over teachers and schools all the time, but when the time comes for them to answer for themselves they hide behind Governor Markell.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good people working over there, but when the leadership responds like this, it doesn’t show a concerted effort to communicate better with the public.  It shows a “We are better than you” attitude.  Does he have to wait for Markell’s permission to respond effectively?  Cause we all know Jack was gallivanting around today giving a speech about teacher quality on the taxpayer’s dime without putting it on his public schedule.

Meanwhile, this school needs action taken on it now.  What is going to be the DOE’s spin when things come out?  Something like “we were aware of the situation and took every step necessary to deal with these matters.”  I’m telling everyone right now, when things are revealed about this school, don’t look to the DOE for answers.  Because you will get a response akin to the one I got from Secretary Godowsky today.  You’re going 0-2 on me here Steve.  That is not a good start.  While I appreciate you helping to put Delaware Met on formal review to begin with, that doesn’t solve the immediate problems going on there.  And your betrayal last week with the opt-out penalties is not endearing you to Delaware at all!

If no one will take quick action on this school than something bad is going to happen.  We all know it.  And I’m sure the last thing the DOE wants to do is prove me right.  I am hereby declaring the DOE a Priority State Education Agency.

*I did edit one name in the email.  Poor State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman.  I can never remember the i before e except after c rule with his name.  Both default when I start to put his name in my email address field.  My profuse apologies Rep. Speigelman!

DOE: Stop Being An Ostrich And Do The Right Thing! Shut Delaware Met Down!

This is a short and simple message for the Delaware DOE: The Delaware Met is a dangerous place for students and staff.  Events there are out of control, much more than the public knows.  You need to shut this place down immediately!  Would you rather go through a week of having a black eye and getting negative press or do you think it is okay to leave an unsafe school open and run the risk of someone getting seriously hurt?  This is not your normal formal review charter school and you know it.  You need to do something NOW!  We both know much more is going to come out regarding this school.  You may even be hailed as heroes for doing the right thing in the long run.  But the longer you wait, the higher the risk.  How is that going to look when something really bad happens there (bigger than all the bad stuff that is going on there) and YOUR Department failed to act?  You will be a national embarrassment.