Still Breakin’ The Law: Laurel School District, Charter School of New Castle, DAPSS, DE Military Academy, Eastside, Early College High School, & Freire

Hey, I know I got some districts and charters moving last weekend when I posted how they were not following state law in putting up their board audio recordings, but some of you didn’t get the message!

So… Laurel School District, Charter School of New Castle, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware Military Academy, Eastside Charter School, Early College High School, and Freire… I will do this as much as I can until you are COMPLIANT with the law!

State law says you must record your board meetings and put them on your website within seven days.  No excuses, no exceptions, just do it!  I would have loved to go to your websites and not have to write this article.  Yeah, I know, I’m a pain.  But guess what?  I’m not breaking the law!  And until someone from the state calls you out on breakin’ the law, I’ll continue my citizen audits!  Transparency Rules!

And Laurel, you need to put up your board agenda.  That is a big FOIA no-no!

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: DAPSS, DE Military Academy, Early College High, First State Military, & First State Montessori

In the next round of Delaware charter schools that have salaries over $100,000, we have an eclectic mix that include two Kent County schools and three New Castle county.  Two are military schools, one has a pseudo-religious theme, one is a first responder school, and the other has a unique partnership with Delaware State University.  In my eyes, if you are going to have a charter school, make it different from the schools around you.  And these charters certainly fit the bill!  Two of them, as you can see by their demographics, are on my radar of what I view as skewed special populations in some areas.  One of them, however, could disappear by the end of June if they don’t get their student enrollment up very soon!  Delaware Military Academy is authorized by Red Clay Consolidated School District.  ECHS and the two FSMAs opened up after the News Journal came out with their salary article in 2014. Continue reading

Ex Delaware Military Academy Leader’s Letter To Gateway Lab School Gives Stunning Insight On Charter Schools

Recently, a Gateway Lab School board member reached out to the former leader of the Delaware Military Academy, Chuck Baldwin, for potential recommendations for Gateway.  This was presented at one of their recent board meetings in public session, therefore, this is a public document.  The letter gives certain… well, I’ll let you read it and tell me what you think!  I’m pretty sure those with their Delaware military charter history can guess his date error at first glance but I wanted to present the document as is! Continue reading

First State Military Academy ROTC Instructor With No DEEDS Credentials Arrested For Unlawful Sexual Contact

Last week, according to Delaware State News and the Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times, First State Military Academy military instructor Troy McQueen was arrested and charged with three counts of second degree unlawful sexual contact with a student under the age of 18.  The charter school dismissed the employee the same day they found out about the incidents.  However, what I found next was very disturbing as a parent. Continue reading

Red Clay Board of Education Votes Unanimously For Equity Plan

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education voted unanimously for the district to develop an Equity Plan through their long-standing Diversity Committee.  The resolution, written by board member Adriana Bohm, would charge the committee to develop the Equity Plan, which will be presented to the board by April of 2018.  Many community members came out to give public comment in support of plan.

Where this gets a bit sticky is the two charter schools Red Clay authorizes, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy.  As their authorizing agent, Red Clay can conduct their charter renewal process along with formal reviews, modifications, and other such matters.  But they cannot dictate district policy to those schools and make them follow it.  Both schools have substantially lower populations of racial groups the Diversity Committee would talk about.  Failure to address this huge gap between the districts and those charters would ignore the inherent and not-to-be ignored problems of race in the district.  Based on enrollment preferences, those schools have the tendency to pick and choose who they want based on “specific interest”.

I definitely think Bohm’s resolution is a good one.  Red Clay had mixed results with their Inclusion Plan over the past few years which has prompted significant changes in the way the district handles special education.  Based on 2016-2017 data, Red Clay has more minorities than white students, with the largest of those minorities being Hispanic students at around 30%.  But what I don’t want to see this committee doing is basing student success on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  I do not believe these are a valid measurement of student success in any possible way.  Many in the African-American community feel these are a valid measurement since they include all students, but when the test is flawed it is not a good measurement.

To read the entire plan, please see below.

Questions About Due Process Surround AI duPont Basketball Team Suspension

A group of parents demanded answers today from Red Clay Consolidated School District officials regarding the suspension of the basketball team from their last game and the playoffs.  As I wrote yesterday, the team was suspended when they got off their bench at the end of a game after they were told not to.  Allegations of racial slurs have been central to this matter but neither Red Clay or Delaware Military Academy have said anything in an official capacity that these epithets came out despite numerous witnesses coming forward on Facebook, comments on Delaware Online, and witnesses that have come forward to Red Clay officials.  Now those parents are demanding the suspension decision be rescinded based on what they are perceiving to be a lack of due process based on policies within Red Clay.  The following letter was sent to the district today.  As well, Red Clay board member Adriana Bohm asked the district to rescind their decision.

**Updated, 4:25pm: According to The News Journal, the district may reconsider the team’s suspension for their remaining game and the playoffs.  Still no response from Commandant Pullella at Delaware Military Academy.

https://www.scribd.com/document/340126552/Appeal

Delaware Racism: It Is Reality And It Is Not Going Away

Racism in Delaware is very real. We saw it clearly with the situation at a Delaware Military Academy basketball game.  Alleged racial slurs were yelled out by DMA students.  When the A.I. Dupont High School basketball team was told to stay in their chairs after the game, members went to go towards the seats where they heard the horrible words.  No adult will come forward about this and use honor instead of protecting their charter school.  Why?

Racism is rampant in Delaware.  Our media, especially The News Journal, does not do enough to curb this.  Every time they post any article about issues that could possibly involve race, the hatred pours out in their comments.  Perhaps they remove these but they have no filters whatsoever to prevent words like nigger being thrown out there.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this comment from their poll last night about the DMA/AI incident:

delawareracism

I don’t condone the use of that word by anyone, whether they are black or white.  It is a word from history that signifies a time when black people were owned by white people.  I don’t believe any race or culture should own the word.  It is ugly and full of hatred.  We all bleed the same blood.  We all smile the same smile and we all shed the same tears.  Maybe because I was raised in a home where the value of respecting others was instilled in me at a very early age is the reason I can’t even fathom this kind of hatred.

President Trump, for all his faults, does not bring out this kind of hatred in people.  It is there and always has been.  There are those who may not like the words but fail to do anything about as evidenced by this comment from a DMA parent:

dmaparent

Fear of retaliation.  I’ve heard those words so many times to justify bad decisions in others.  If you find those words unacceptable then do the right thing and speak up.  What kind of message are you sending your child?  That it is okay for others to say things that are unacceptable in today’s society?  That adults can act just as bad as kids which further perpetuates racism?  Speak up parent!  By hiding things and covering them up, you are teaching your own child that it is okay for these things to happen.  It is not okay.  It is not right.  Your job as a parent is to prepare your child for adulthood and instill in them a sense of right and wrong.  We all want to protect our children, I get that.  But if doing it has a cost that could make anyone think certain things are okay are you really doing your job as a parent?  If administrators allow this to continue, what does that say about the school you chose to send your child to?  Taking away a senior night, which is the first I’ve heard of any punishment for DMA students, is not enough.  If this indeed happened, that would indicate wrong-doing on the DMA team and cheerleaders.  If no racial slurs were thrown out, why a punishment at all?

Schools like Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, and Newark Charter School all have very low African-American populations compared to the schools around them.  Some have even suggested they allow this culture of racism to continue so they get more white students.  This furthers segregation in Delaware, especially around Wilmington.  If these charters truly cared about diversity, they would do something about it.  Instead, we get long drawn-out essays, significant expenses surrounding school uniforms and sports, and specific interests that dissuade low-income families and minorities from even applying.  Despite the many who have called them out on this, our General Assembly turns a blind eye to this and allows this to continue.  Despite federal guidance suggesting any specific enrollment should be designed to let students with the highest needs in.

Did the A.I. DuPont H.S. coach do the right thing?  Many have suggested he did.  By suspending the team for the rest of the season he sent a message that despite what others say reacting to it can only make the situation worse.  But what about those players who are being called one of the most vile words in existence?  The News Journal wrote an editorial and said the coach made the right decision.  However, they did not mention one word about the alleged racial slurs.  To me, that word is meant to strip away the humanity from a person and make them feel like less then a human being.  Even though the above comment no longer appears in the comments of a poll they put up last night they allowed it to go up.  Even by putting a poll up to see if the coach did the right thing without all the information conveyed to those answering the poll, they are slanting the issue.

Delaware is an odd state.  We are a state between the south and the north.  One only needs to look at the riots in Wilmington in the 1960s to see Delaware’s history with race issues.  We still struggle with this in the present.  Generations of hatred against black people still exist to this very day.  But no one wants to really bring it out in the open.  Those of us who try are chastised and told to shut up.  That we have no idea what we are talking about.  But it continues, every day.  Every time we allow any institution to further issues of race, we are allowing the problem to continue.  Any time we allow a school, a building of education, to not have student populations that match the local area, we are letting it happen.

The charter schools I mentioned were a cure for not-so-wealthy parents of white students who couldn’t afford to send their kids to private schools.  They didn’t want their kids in “those” schools so some of our legislators created the perfect situation: schools with predominant white populations and barriers that effectively prevented “those” kids from even getting into that system.  And many parents rushed towards the opportunity.  Attack one of those charters and the parents will come out in full force to defend the school with a “How dare you” attitude.  They will defend these institutions that further discrimination at the cost of their own souls.  They don’t even see they are doing it.

Any person who makes themselves better than another with words designed to hurt someone based on race, gender, disability, age, or social status is discriminatory.  They are racist.  They are advancing their old-world vision on present-day society.  Anyone who fails to speak out about these things happening is living in a fear basket cuddled up in a blanket called enablement.  You are allowing this to continue.  You are just as bad.  If your child was given a hard time at school would you not speak up for them?  Most of us would.  We wouldn’t worry about fear of retaliation because it is the right thing to speak up for your child and advocate for them when they are unable to.  So why would you not speak up when you see your child’s environment is hostile and ugly?  That can be just as damaging as any situation where someone comes after your child.  You are failing as a parent when you don’t speak up about injustice.  If we all did that when we should, there wouldn’t be so much injustice.  It would send a clear message that this will not be tolerated.  It is unacceptable.  We will not be a victim to your cruel words and hatred.

Children are the most susceptible and vulnerable population in this country.  They absorb what is around them.  If parents show racism as issues at the dinner table or use words to describe people that are not good, kids pick up on it and at a very early age.  It becomes part of their personality.  It goes both ways with race.  Putting down the white man in front of your kids can elicit the same behaviors in kids.  I go back to “Remember The Titans”.  If it really went down that way, I don’t know.  It had to have been “Disneyfied” to some degree.  But the message is clear: when we band together we are all one.

I am not afraid to speak out.  I will not stop defending the rights of any human being on this planet.  And you can throw all the stones in the world at me but I will not let your cowardice stop me.  This is why I loathe the use of high-stakes standardized testing in schools.  It is just another system that puts up divides instead of unity.  Far too many parents say “I don’t want my kid going to that school.  Look at their test scores”.  And they cycle continues.  For the Delaware racists, you know who you are.  You know what you harbor in your innermost thoughts.  You may think you are right.  You may go to church on Sundays and count your blessings.  You may believe you have the might of angels behind your beliefs.  But what you lack in humility and grace takes all of that away.  As for media like The News Journal, telling half a story isn’t addressing any issue.  Covering up things that went down and hiding behind “accounts on social media” as if that whitewashes what really went down is not journalism.  It is cowardice.

Almost a day since I broke this story, DMA Commandant Anthony Pullella has not responded to my request for information about this incident.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  Many charter schools like to live in their own bubble and want to ignore the outside world.  As if they are the beacon of society and can do no wrong.  Why shouldn’t they think that?  Our own state government has allowed them to thrive in that belief.  Our legislators can sit in their legislative chambers and condemn actions that took place 150 years ago but when the time comes for them to address the true issues that are perpetuating racism, discrimination, and segregation in our state, far too many of them do nothing.  Especially when it comes to education.  There are those who will fight on these issues, reps like Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others.  But they do not hold the majority.  All too often, bills are saturated with words that eventually continue Delaware’s backwards slide into racism.  Some don’t even realize this at the time.  Critics of issues involving racism and discrimination are all too often marginalized in this state.  Our issues become back burner because money and power have the influence in Dover, not what is right.  It becomes politics, not morality and doing what is right.

Unless you have been spoken down to like you are less than you are as much as African-Americans have in our very racist state, how can you effectively say you are right?  Have you ever walked in the shoes of someone who has been demeaned and humiliated?  If the answer is no, then kindly shut up.  We don’t want your hatred spewing out of your mouth.  I will never condone violence as a response to hatred.  It does nothing except make the situation worse.  But to point out the potential of violence without addressing why it got to that point is highly irresponsible.

 

 

Racial Slurs Appear To Go Unpunished For DE Military Academy While A.I. DuPont Basketball Team Suspended Rest Of Season

At a recent basketball game between Delaware Military Academy and A.I. DuPont High School, a fight broke out when DMA or students in the stands allegedly used racial slurs including the “n” word.  As a result, the A.I. team has been suspended the rest of the season while the DMA players seemingly have not been punished for instigating the incident.  I do not condone using force to resolve issues.  If there was fighting, then certainly the A.I. players should be punished.  With that being said, the use of racist slurs should NOT go unpunished.  Details are sparse on this incident and I did reach out to Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty and Delaware Military Academy Commandant Anthony Pullella to see if they can confirm what actions took place.  As of this writing, I have yet to receive a response from either of them.

Apparently, this is not the only incident involving charter schools within Red Clay and Red Clay high schools.  Several parents have suggested there was an incident between Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway and the incident with DMA is not the first time racial slurs were said by DMA players.

Without “actual” documentation, much of this is hearsay.  However, when enough parents start talking about something, expect a lot of noise.  I don’t think this matter is going to quietly go away.  For the current school year, DMA has a population of African-American students of 5.8% while A.I. DuPont has 36.1% according to the Delaware Dept. of Education website.

Updated, 10:42am: The News Journal covered the team’s suspension but not a single word was written about the alleged racial slurs.

Updated, 10:55am: The incident did not involve actual assault but players from A.I. rushing to the student seats at the DMA home game.  Their coach had explicitly informed them to stay in their seats.  Red Clay closed the investigation last week but it was reopened as of today.  If anyone has firsthand knowledge of racial slurs being used at this game, please contact the Red Clay Consolidated District Office and Delaware Military Academy.

Updated, 11:00am: I have not received any response to my request for information from Daugherty or Pullella.

Updated, 12:34pm: Red Clay Board of Education member Adriana Bohm put the following message on Facebook:

In regards to the AI/DMA situation and based on information I received I requested the case be re-opened and it was reopened this morning. If folks heard the “N Word” and other racially derogatory language being used at the game please file an official complaint and write a letter to the Red Clay School Board. The email address is RCBOARDMEMBERS@redclay.k12.de.us. You may also message me so we can talk.

Updated, 1:27pm: I heard back from Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.  I will include my initial request as well as his response:

Merv,

Several people have reached out to me this morning in regards to a fight at a DMA basketball game.  What I’m hearing is the AI team has been suspended the rest of the season.  I’ve also heard the catalyst for this fight was the use of racial slurs by DMA players that have gone unpunished.  Can you confirm any of this?  This is under the assumption you would not know or be able to control what kind of punishment would occur for DMA players.

Thanks, 

Kevin Ohlandt

Dr. Daugherty’s Response:

Kevin,

We have investigated this incident for several days. We have interviewed coaches, administrators,  security personnel, and parents of players from both teams who were at the game.  None of those persons interviewed reported hearing any racial slurs. The decision to forfeit the remainder of the season (one game) and the playoffs was made because of the players actions at the conclusion of the game. The account of the incident in today’s News Journal is accurate. And, you are correct in that Red Clay is not responsible for the discipline of DMA students. 

Respectfully,

Merv

I have yet to receive a response from Commandant Pullella at Delaware Military Academy.  There appears to be some confusion on whether the alleged racial epithets were coming from DMA basketball players or students in the stands.

Updated, 2/23/17, 4:28pm: I have updated this article to reflect that the alleged racial slurs came from Delaware Military Academy students in the stands, not their basketball players.  There have been several reports about a hostile attitude at the game towards the A.I. DuPont High School team.

The Kathleen Davies Mystery Deepens As Charter School Petty Cash Letters Come Out & Many Charters Get Sue-Happy

Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many.  Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night.  They showed some very extreme violations of state code.  As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies.  These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools:  Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler).  These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released.  But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring.  Now we can clearly see why.

Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive.  The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”?  That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.

We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well.  We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office.  It could be a combination of any of these people.  It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.

Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection.  That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett.  When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders.  Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity.  Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware.  Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican.  Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters.  I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.

 

Odyssey Charter School:

  1. petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
  2. 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
  3. 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
  4. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83

Delaware Military Academy:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
  3. checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
  4. 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
  5. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
  6. failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”

Charter School of Wilmington:

  1. had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
  5. had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
  6. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11

Sussex Academy:

  1. 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
  2. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95

 

So let me get this straight.  Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture?  And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters?  That were NEVER released to the public, until now?  And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky.  All charter school leaders and board presidents.  My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools.  As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office.  As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program.  But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:

We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible.  Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.

So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable.  She followed the procedure.  Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless.  Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock.  A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well.  But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner.  And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky?  How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law?  Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner?  This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.

This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware.  They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues.  We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb.  One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas.  They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders.  They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that.  If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.

This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula.  I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course.  As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit.  They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen.  Which they did.  Delaware is a very corrupt state.  If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked.  There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt.  If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.

But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit.  One Kathleen Davies.  The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections.  One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS.  While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed.  Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions.  NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out.  It had to disappear.  We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires.  But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe.  It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements.  But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies.  Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact.  I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.

Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office.  This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.

She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.

Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor.  What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts.  By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year.  There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.

Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.

All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law.  But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school.  Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether.  Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this.  Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way.  As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September.  That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.

At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies.  If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here.  This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:

  • 515 Oversight and revocation process.

(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.

(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner.  Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware.  Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing.  Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality.  They are what outside interests want.  These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.

This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity.  As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this.  As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors?  I believe it is time to find out.  It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances.  Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware.  If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.

In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:

Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell

Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos

Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli

2016 Delaware Charter School Inspection Shows Severe Lack Of Transparency

MOTCharterSchool

Many Delaware charter schools failed a recent inspection on financial, organizational, and governance transparency.  No charter school received a perfect score on this inspection.  The ones who failed did so miserably.

Delaware law is very clear about what charter schools are required to do.  Other public meeting laws in Delaware, which have been supported through legal opinions on FOIA complaints, are very clear as well.  Last night, I went through every single charter school website to look for eight things: Their monthly financial information was up to date (July 2016), they posted their last annual audit (2015), they posted their IRS 990 Tax Form (as a non-profit), they posted their board agenda for their most recent meeting, they posted their board minutes (based on when they had their last meeting and were able to approve those minutes), they put an agenda up for their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee, they put up the minutes for their CBOC meetings, and a Delaware Department of Education representative was present at those CBOC meetings.

Most of the Delaware charter schools failed this inspection.  One of them (considered to be a very successful charter school) didn’t pass any category.  Some charter schools feel as though they don’t have to meet during the summer and prepare for the new school year.  There was no charter school that received a perfect score.  I understand things slow down in the summer, but not meeting is inexcusable in my book.  Some charters need to do a lot of work on their websites.  Hunting and pecking to find information is not in the vein of transparency.

The most disturbing aspect is the apparent lack of oversight coming from the Delaware Department of Education.  More specifically, the Charter School Office.  They may monitor the charters, and I’m glad a DOE representative is attending most of their CBOC meetings, but where is the public transparency of that monitoring?  Jennifer Nagourney worked very hard to get this aspect turned around with charters.  I would hate to see her hard work disappear.

The way CBOC laws are written, quarterly meetings are okay.  But some charters meet monthly.  I’m not going to dink you if you don’t meet every single month.  I think districts and charters should have monthly CBOC meetings.  A quick note about IRS 990 tax filings: these can vary on the tax year.  If a school had their 2014 return on there, I counted them as being in compliance.  If it was older or they didn’t have any tax filings on their website, they got hit.  This is required by law.  Only one charter school in Delaware is not required to file a 990: Newark Charter School.  I don’t agree with it.

*This article has been updated to include Great Oaks Wilmington which was inadvertently left out of the original article.

Academia Antonia Alonso

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2012

Board Agenda: 7/27/16

Board Minutes: June 2016

CBOC Agenda: June 2016

CBOC Minutes: June 2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Academy of Dover

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 8/25/16

Board Minutes: June 2016

CBOC Agenda: 8/25/16

CBOC Minutes: June 2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Campus Community School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None (searched, said “access denied”)

Board Agenda: 8/30/16

Board Minutes: June 2016

CBOC Agenda: 8/30/2016

CBOC Minutes: 5/5/2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Charter School of Wilmington

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: June 2016 (no meeting in July)

CBOC Agenda: 5/18/16

CBOC Minutes: 5/18/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: none (has standard agenda)

Board Minutes: June 2016 (no meetings in July or August)

CBOC Agenda: May 2016

CBOC Minutes: April 2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Financials: May 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 8/22/16

Board Minutes: 5/26/16

CBOC Agenda: None

CBOC Meeting: 4/25/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Delaware Military Academy

Financials: 6/30/16

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None (no search button on website)

Board Agenda: 6/27/16

Board Minutes: 5/23/16 (states no meetings in July or August)

CBOC Agenda: None (has standing agenda)

CBOC Minutes: June 2016

DOE Rep: No

 

Early College High School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 8/25/16

Board Minutes: 4/28/16      

CBOC Agenda: 7/21/16

CBOC Minutes: 4/28/16 (states no quorum at May & June Mtgs)

DOE Rep: Yes

 

EastSide Charter School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/17/16

Board Minutes: 6/16/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/26/16

CBOC Minutes: 7/26/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Family Foundations Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2012

Board Agenda: 7/27/16

Board Minutes: 6/16/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/25/16

CBOC Minutes: 4/26/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

First State Military Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 8/23/16

Board Minutes: 7/26/16

CBOC Agenda: 6/24/16

CBOC Minutes: 6/24/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

First State Montessori Academy

Financials: 2/29/16

Yearly Audit: None

990: None

Board Agenda: 9/1/16

Board Minutes: 5/26/16

CBOC Agenda: None (Standard Agenda)

CBOC Minutes: 5/19/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Freire Charter School of Wilmington

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 8/17/16

Board Minutes: 6/16/16

CBOC Agenda: 6/20/16 (noted August mtg canceled)

CBOC Minutes: 6/20/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Gateway Lab School

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2014

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: 5/24/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/19/16

CBOC Minutes: 2/16/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Great Oaks Wilmington

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 7/27/16 (schedule shows 8/22 board meeting, no agenda)

Board Minutes: 7/27/16

CBOC Agenda: None (shows area for this but none listed)

CBOC Minutes: None (shows area for this but no minutes listed)

DOE Rep: None

 

Kuumba Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2014

990: None

Board Agenda: 5/12/16

Board Minutes: 5/12/16 (states no meeting held in June)

CBOC Agenda: 7/12/16

CBOC Minutes: 7/12/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Las Americas Aspiras Academy

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 8/25/16

Board Minutes: 5/26/16

CBOC Agenda: 8/22/16

CBOC Minutes: 6/20/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

MOT Charter School

Financials: None

Yearly Audit: None

990: None

Board Agenda: 6/14/16

Board Minutes: 5/25/16 (June Mtg. Canceled)

CBOC Agenda: None

CBOC Minutes: None

DOE Rep: None

*website states for further information to call the business office

 

Newark Charter School

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: not required

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: 7/19/16

CBOC Agenda: 5/17/16

CBOC Minutes: 5/17/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Odyssey Charter School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2011

Board Agenda: 8/17/16

Board Minutes: 6/21/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/20/16

CBOC Minutes: 6/26/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Positive Outcomes

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 7/20/16

Board Minutes: 5/18/16 (no meeting in June)

CBOC Agenda: 7/20/16

CBOC Minutes: 7/20/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Prestige Academy

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: 7/19/16

CBOC Agenda: 8/16/16

CBOC Minutes: 2/16/16

DOE Rep: None

 

Providence Creek Academy

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/23/16

Board Minutes: 7/26/16

CBOC Agenda: 8/18/2016

CBOC Minutes: 8/18/2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Sussex Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 7/27/16

Board Minutes: 6/15/16 (no August meeting)

CBOC Agenda: 5/17/16

CBOC Minutes: 5/17/16 (says next meeting won’t be until October)

DOE Rep: None

 

Thomas Edison Charter School

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/15/16

Board Minutes: 7/18/16

CBOC Agenda: 9/14/16

CBOC Minutes: 3/2/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Charter schools are public schools.  You set some autonomy based on how the laws are written.  But you still have to adhere to the law.  You don’t live in a separate bubble in Delaware.  On one hand, charters beg to be treated the same, and on the other, they beg to be treated different because of that “autonomy”.  I don’t buy the excuse that any single charter school in this state doesn’t know about these requirements.  If you open a bank, you better believe that bank looks into all of the operating laws they have to adhere to.

These inspections didn’t even get into the meat of your board minutes.  A lot of you feel you don’t really have to give any detail.  Some of your CBOC meetings don’t list which members are community representatives.  I gave many of you bad scores if you haven’t had a CBOC meeting in over three months.  Even if you don’t have a quorum, you still have to post minutes.  And MOT… really?  Call the business office to get more information?  Just because you do great on Smarter Balanced doesn’t mean you are immune from transparency.  Last year, the Charter School Accountability Committee found nothing wrong in MOT’s charter renewal process.  They were approved unanimously for renewal without this subject EVER coming up.

I could file a ton of FOIA complaints today.  I’m not going to.  I’m going to give you until September 30th to correct these things.  If I don’t see any improvement or very little, I start filing.

There were five charter schools who I felt, even though they got hit on one thing, have made a sincere effort to be transparent: Academy of Dover, Campus Community School, First State Military Academy, Las Americas Aspiras, and Providence Creek Academy.  Honorary mentions go to Newark Charter School, Positive Outcomes, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison.  But the rest of you need  a lot of work.  Sadly, some of you haven’t come far when I did this two years ago and a Valentines Day blitz inspection in 2015 and then another inspection in July 2015.  Some actually did worse.  Out of all the charters that did well on these inspections, they included most of the Kent and Sussex County charters but only two New Castle County charters.  That I don’t get.  I beat up on charters a lot.  But I am getting around to beating up on districts more as well.  I will give all of you a very fair warning: record your meetings and put the recordings up in seven business days.  Kilroy may be quiet now, but he didn’t fight for the “all boards must record” legislation for kicks.  He will monitor if you are doing this, and if you aren’t… watch out!

Perhaps Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network will agree or not agree with me on these transparency issues.  But I believe, as a non-profit that supports charter schools, this should be their fight as well.  Charter schools are at a crossroads right now.  Many states are issuing moratoriums on charter schools.  Delaware did this a year and a half ago.  They can either operate as public schools or face the wrath of public perception.  I don’t believe ALL charters are like the ones depicted on the John Oliver Show last weekend.  But we all know Delaware could have easily been portrayed on that episode with some things that have happened here.  Some of the charter schools in this inspection: don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of this article.  Know that I know things and you are on my radar.

Student Body Activity In Delaware Schools A Hotbed For Fraud & Abuse! Why Is $118,126.88 Such An Important Number?

The Delaware accounting system is a train wreck of epic proportions.  I found 100% proof funds were switched around that benefit certain schools.  We have one charter school that can’t even follow proper accounting procedures and another charter school that seems to think Student Body Activities are their personal playground.

FY2016StudentBodyActivityDistrictCharters

For something like this chart, I would expect to see school districts firmly in the lead, but we don’t see that at all.  Cape Henlopen is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Delaware school districts.  They get a lot of money from school taxes and the residents in those areas don’t seem to mind paying them.  But Newark Charter School, with $445,000 in student body activities?  That is an excessively high amount.  For a charter school with a student population of less than 14% of the neighboring Christina School District, they spend 17 times more on activities for students than Christina.  Four districts and one charter don’t even have anything coded as “Student Body Activity” with the state: Caesar Rodney, Colonial, Delmar, Sussex Tech, and Sussex Academy.  Do they not have any student body activities or do they just put it somewhere else in the Rubik’s Cube called the Delaware Financial System (DFS)?

So how does this even work?  Are districts and charters paying out for field trips and fun activities and then reimbursing those costs as revenue generated from parents paying for them?  Are these schools paying for them without collecting any money from students?  Or is it a combination of both?

Do these activities affect the bottom line for the per student costs for each district and charter school?

FY2016StudentBodyActivityPerStudent

Rocketing to number one with $108,000 in student body activity costs based on their number of students is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPSS).  That sure is a lot of field trips!  We know they bought a fire truck for their students last winter, but those funds were generated from a collection by students.  So what accounts for such a high amount based on their student population?  I went on Delaware Online Checkbook and found that DAPPS is coding all their student transportation costs under student body activity.  So that throws their numbers way off!  We can clearly see the transportation costs as part of this category, with an amount totaling $84,236.  Had they coded this correctly, under student transportation, their costs for student body activity would have been a little over $23,000.

For Newark Charter School’s student body activity expenses on Delaware Online Checkbook, there is no explanation for their very high amounts.  While we do see transportation costs, they are not as high as DAPSS.  They appear to be transportation costs associated with field trips.  What is even more bizarre are the many payments going to certain individuals.  As if they are parents or teachers.  We see amounts going out to American Airlines for 26 purchases of what I assume to be airline tickets at $818 each and one for $875 totaling over $21,000 on 2/5/16 which were bought with the state procurement card on 1/15/16.  I reviewed NCS board minutes and found no mention of any big field trips for students taking place that would warrant such high airline ticket prices.  The state’s accounting manual is explicit that no state employee can purchase first class airline tickets.  So where was this trip to that cost $818 for each ticket?

Cape Henlopen has an obscene amount of p-card activity associated with student body activities under student body activity.  Like Newark Charter School, I see a lot of names associated with these charges.

Where this gets incredibly odd is when I went to look at examples of student body activity for different school districts and charters.  A Delaware citizen submitted a FOIA request to the state and received the FOIA in early July.  All of this citizen’s information was run by the Department of Finance on 7/2/16 for every single district and charter school’s expenses for Fiscal Year 2016.  June 30th was the end of the fiscal year.  All the charts and graphs I have made to date have been based on those figures.  But upon review, amounts are changing in the state accounting system.  The total expenditures for each district and charter are the same, but funds are moving around in the coding system.  As an example, Odyssey Charter School showed over $35,000 in student body activity costs.  But when I look now on Delaware Online Checkbook, the amount is over $153,000.  This trend occurred with many districts and charters, some for nominal amounts and some for rather considerable amounts.  And this is just under student body activity expenses.

In looking at Odyssey, it became clear something was up, so I was able to actually find the exact amount that was shifted over to student body activity.

odysseystudbodyactivity

In the above picture, we clearly see Odyssey Charter School, as of 21:06:44 on 07/02/16 had a total amount for FY2016 in Student Body Activity in the amount of $35,831.91.

odysseystudbodyactivitydeonlinechkbook

In the above snapshot, taken from Delaware Online Checkbook today about ten minutes ago, we clearly see an amount showing $153,958.79.  The difference between the two is $118,126.88.  That is a rather steep increase for student body activities!  In looking at their expenses for student body activity for Odyssey, I found two rather large amounts going to First Student Inc.  This is the bus company Odyssey uses.  As seen in the below picture, the two charges were for $69,486.40 and $48,640.48.  If you add those up, you get $118,126.88.  Now why would those funds be shifted from some other category to student body activity?

OdysseyFirstStateIncBusPmtsFY2016

The two payments to First Student Inc. are listed in the below picture.

odysseyfirststateincpmts$118k

So if $118,126.88 was shifted to Student Body Activity, where did the funds come from?  If Odyssey’s total expenditures didn’t change, what happened to the money?  In the FOIA from 7/2/16, it clearly shows Odyssey’s Fleet Rental costs at $612,546.34.

OdysseyFleetRental

Now watch what happens when I go on Delaware Online Checkbook to find out the current Fleet Rental amount for Odyssey Charter School…

OdysseyFY2016FleetRentalDEOnlineChkbook

Wait, it went down from $612,546.34 to $494,419.46.  That is a difference of $118,126.88

There is one thing charter schools get that traditional school districts don’t get.  Some call it the transportation slush fund.  Every year, in the epilogue to the state budget, there is a stipulation that allows charter schools to keep any difference between their budgeted amount for transportation and what they actually spend.  For Odyssey, this is listed as “Transportation” in their budget.  These costs go up each year.  But how much did charter schools get to keep from these surplus funds.  Surely it wasn’t that much.  In the below pictures from FY2014 and FY2015, we see how much charters get back from this slush fund.

OdysseyFY2014TransportationFunds

FY2015BusContracts

Odyssey has clearly benefitted from this arrangement with legislators that has continued for the past seven years in the epilogue of the state budget.  I sincerely hope charters aren’t hiding any funds so they can actually get more from the Delaware Charter School Transportation Slush Fund then they already are!

What I am more curious about with these coding changes are 1) Why are they happening, 2) Who is making the changes, and 3) Are both the districts or charters and the state aware of these changes if only one of them are making the changes?  Something to keep in mind is this simple fact: this is only for Student Body Activity.  There are hundreds of codes in the Delaware Financial System.  This is just what I could find for our schools in one code.

FY2016CodingChangesStudentBodyActivity

In the picture above, this is based on rounded off figures to the nearest dollar which is why the Odyssey number doesn’t match up with the $118,126.88 I mentioned a few times.  I have not been able to look at the other schools to see where the money is going to.  Odyssey was easy because of the high amounts involved.  While some of these amounts are small, what other shifts are going on?  Why are they going on for other areas if they are?  We know districts and charters code things incorrectly but who monitors that?  Does anyone?  And how much does all this shifting of taxpayer dollars affect funding for the next fiscal year?

I would strongly recommend each district or charter school Chief Operating Officer or Business Manager proactively gets in touch with me and voluntarily lets me know of any changes being made to the Delaware Financial System, the justification for these changes, and how they are able to do it.  If they aren’t aware of these changes, they need to let me know that as well.  Because as I go through each of the different codes in the coming weeks, I will find more.  I’ve already done a cursory glance at different (and major) categories and found excessive sums of money shifting around.  If you don’t get in touch with me, don’t get upset when I blast the lack of transparency from your school or district in each article.  We know this is happening.  So the choice is simple: be held accountable or be honest.  If there is funny business, you know I will expose it and call you out on it.  And each time, I am submitting requests to the State Auditor’s office for each and every category.  So you can ignore me all you want, but know that someone else will be knocking on your door.  And if the State Auditor’s office ignores this, it is time to take steps at a Federal level.  None of you who are manipulating funds will be allowed to do so anymore.  If the Auditor won’t hold you accountable, I will.  And I will make so much noise you won’t be able to hear above the outcries of the citizens in your district or charter school.  This begins now.  I don’t want to hear any crap about “I didn’t know” or “no one ever told me”.  You are all subject to the rules of this state.  Your excuses are exactly that: an excuse.  If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to worry about.  But someone has to shake all this up and see what settles at the bottom.

I sincerely hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s party and ruining a chance to get some extra money for themselves.  The party’s over.  Deal with it.

 

The Smear Campaign At The Delaware Auditor’s Office & What The News Journal Didn’t Tell You

Revenge is ugly business.  When it takes place at a very high state level and the object of that revenge gets a whole article about it in the state’s biggest newspaper, it is really ugly.

Today, James Fisher and Matthew Albright published an article about the Auditor of Accounts, Kathleen Davies.  The article claims Davies was put on leave over two months ago due to not using the state procurement card for travel expenses.  According to the story, sources who would only be named as “state employees” contacted the Office of Management and Budget, then run by Ann Visalli, in November of 2015.  They alleged Davies spent over $7700 in travel expenses (over four years) and received personal reimbursements instead of using the state p-card.  She did do this.  But was it wrong?  Absolutely not.  I’m not buying any of this.  Let’s take a close look at what else was going on at the time these “sources” (as the News Journal calls them) filed this complaint.

Davies had just come out with a report on many charter schools, not just Delaware College Prep (the only school mentioned in the article).  Kuumba Academy was also named in the report on personal reimbursements as using funds against the accounting policies of the state.  Two other charters did not have any inappropriate use of state funds: Odyssey Charter School and Thomas Edison Charter School.

But there was more going on at that time.  The reports on Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy had not come out yet.  The September 30th enrollment inspection was just beginning (which was published earlier this Spring and pulled from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s website after Davies was put on leave).  Another Delaware charter school, The Delaware Met, was under formal review.  Hearings and meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee took place in November and December of 2015.  One of the big questions surrounding Delaware Met was how they were spending their money.  And by default, their operation management company, Innovative Schools, would also be looked at.

There was also an inspection released by Davies on December 7th.  This surrounded an anonymous tip about Delaware Department of Education employees abusing travel expenses.  No wrongdoing was found in the inspection report.  But why would the News Journal not mention such an important part of this timeline in their article as well as the actual inspection?  If this accusation by sources who have now become “whistleblowers” was made to the OMB in November of 2015, this would have been the same time when Davies would have been working on the DOE travel expense report which came out on December 7th.  The timing on this is uncanny!

If it took six months for Davies to be put on leave, what was the OMB doing for six months?  Why did Davies just happen to be put on leave at the same time the DOE was pitching a conniption fit about the September 30th Inspection Report written by Davies?  The report, published by Wagner’s office on May 5th, can be found here.  Why did Wagner pull the report which had absolutely nothing to do with her supposed reasons for being put on leave?  Which other pending audits was Davies working on?  I do know the answer to a couple of these, especially one that I submitted to the auditor’s office.  John Fluharty, the policy analyst from the Auditor of Accounts office, contacted me on March 17th to discuss the tip I sent that office.  I talked to him on March 18th with what I knew.  No follow-up has taken place since then nor has any report been released on my tip.  I find that to be very odd…

And then we have the charter school audit bill crisis.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams released three different bills in the first part of the 148th General Assembly.  The first two were stricken in lieu of the third one which passed the Delaware House on June 30th, 2015.  It’s next destination was the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Delaware Senator David Sokola.  Prior to the second part of the 148th G.A. beginning last January, rumors began circulating that Sokola was going to introduce his own charter school audit bill.  With his friends at the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Sokola crafted new legislation which weakened Williams bill considerably.  Williams and Sokola battled publicly on Facebook over the bill, resulting in an eventual compromise a few months later.  They both met with Davies, who supported Williams bill, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The new legislation, House Bill 435, passed both the House and Senate and awaits Governor Markell’s signature.

But the biggest question is this: what did Davies do that was so wrong, that would warrant such a drastic action?  While the guidelines regarding travel expenses published by the News Journal said the state prefers state employees use the p-card, it doesn’t rule out personal reimbursements.  Furthermore, the article states she told employees she was doing this.  If you have something to hide, you don’t tell everyone in the office!!!  The only way she would have been reimbursed for those travel expenses is if someone approved it and saw the receipts.  Who approved the expenses?  More importantly, where is the fire here?

Davies was not put on leave over this.  This is a cover.  The whole thing reeks of corruption at a very high level.  Tom Wagner won’t talk about it because it’s a personnel issue.  So how did the News Journal get the story?  I can tell you this: I was contacted by an employee of the Delaware Department of Education who asked me if I heard about Kathleen Davies.  This was on May 26th, a week after the September 30th report disappeared.  This employee said “word is she had a falling out with Tom Wagner.  And won’t be back.”  Now I hear from sources all the time about different state employees.  But how is that a DOE employee would have intimate knowledge of a situation between Tom Wagner and his second-in-command?  And how in the world would they know Davies wouldn’t be returning?  That would indicate a conversation took place with someone from the State Auditor’s office with either an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education or an employee of the State Board of Education for that much knowledge to come out for what we are being told is a “personnel issue”.

This is my firm belief: someone was very frightened about an audit inspection Davies was working on.  Something that would make someone or several people look very bad.  This person would have to have the power to be able to pull strings with an elected official to get Davies put on personal leave.  Because this fabricated nonsense about personal reimbursements is absurd.  Other state employees do it.  Even our own Governor was mentioned in an audit report for not following state accounting rules with travel.  Was he put on leave?  Hell no!  Was Tom Wagner put on leave when it was announced he “accidentally” let his own house go into foreclosure?  Nope.

I’ve been going through all district and charter expenses the past few weeks and I can say with certainty that any travel expense amounts incurred by Davies are a drop in the bucket compared to what they spend.  And I seriously questioned one district about an outrageously high amount in one coding area.  No response on that one over two weeks later.  So why target the one person who has the ability to produce reports that can put others in a very bad light over financial abuse?  I believe I just answered my own question.  To pull this off, that takes a serious amount of cunning and guile.  Someone with pull and motivation.  I would have to think Ann Visalli would know that other state employees use personal reimbursements for travel expenses.  I don’t know much about her, except to say she resigned shortly after Davies was put on leave.  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Who resigned before the budget passed.

As for Kathleen Davies, I hope she gets the vindication she deserves from this oh-so-obvious smear campaign against her.  This is a woman who has spent most of her time at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office finding actual situations of financial abuse and scandal.  Most of them have been against charter schools.  Delaware Military Academy report in 2013.  Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep reports in 2015.  Providence Creek Academy, EastSide Charter School and Prestige Academy in 2016.  And potentially more.  But for those reading this smear article on Davies in the News Journal today, they won’t know all of this stuff going on behind the scenes.  So if you read this, please share it so all Delawareans can know that Kathleen Davies is deserving of much more respect than this.  I am positive she has enemies in this state.  Those who expose the truth often do.  Those who do wrong fear exposure more than anything.  So who did Davies frighten so much that they would go to these lengths to remove her and tarnish her good name?

Updated, 6:12pm, 7/31/16: This article has been updated to reflect there was no wrongdoing on the part of Gateway Lab School in any audit report.  This was an error on my end, and I did write an article to apologize to Gateway regarding this.

Ask Teachers One Question And…

Alright, I admit it.  Asking Delaware teachers if they would consider taking a cut in their benefits and pensions probably wasn’t the smartest move in the book, but many of you came out in droves to respond.  Granted, no administrators, principals, or superintendents replied.  The article went over like a resounding thud.  But I challenge every single teacher in the state: if not benefits or pension, what do you view as wasted money in our schools?  And please don’t say “nothing”.  We spend a billion dollars on education in Delaware and that’s just from the state.  We also get federal money and local funds from school taxes.  While other states may laugh and say “that’s it?”, we are a small state with less than a million people and about 133,000 kids in public education.  Since this could be a hot topic with certain folks, feel free to post anonymously on this!

Since I just got home from work and grocery shopping and I’m dead to the world now, just a few updates on recent stuff.  They must have a huge cricket crisis going on in the Appoquinimink School District, because that’s all I’ve heard from them since I dropped the special education funding bomb on them last week.  I did have an interesting comment on the “Unsustainable” article that had me wracking my brain all day.  Delaware school districts and charters might be thinking I’ve slowed down on them and my target of the month is Appo.  Wrong!  I have a ton of articles that will be coming out in the next couple of weeks.  One is about an interesting superintendent situation going on in one of our school districts.  That one led to a VERY interesting board meeting last month.  Dr. Mark Holodick is winning the “who will be the next Secretary of Education in Delaware poll”, followed by Susan Bunting.  Every one seems to be playing pin the tail on the auditor in the past week and everyone wants to know when Tom Wagner is actually going to, you know, do some audits.  Kenny Rivera is now the Vice-President of the Red Clay Board of Education and Michael Piccio was voted in as the President.  The State Board is having their monthly snooze fest on Thursday.  Expect to hear some type of hip-hop hooray about the latest Smarter Balanced Assessment results but not the actual final scores cause they aren’t done yet.  Both the Christina and Red Clay Boards of Education passed resolutions to suspend the WEIC timeline which will be echoed by WEIC at a meeting on July 26th.  On Wednesday, WEIC will be honored by the Progressive Democrats of Delaware as their Education Heroes of the Year.  So Elizabeth Lockman gets a two-peat!  Jack Markell hasn’t signed the teacher evaluation bill yet, House Bill 399.  I guess he was too busy not filing to run for Congress (okay, I never said I bat home runs every time)!  Delaware Military Academy wants to build a sports dome, but not with any funding from the state.  They said it will all be from private donations.  Apparently Chief of Instruction Michael Watson at the Delaware DOE has been “chosen” to be on John Carney’s “transition team”.  How very presumptuous of you Mr. Carney.  Today is State Rep. Trey Paradee’s birthday so wish him a Happy Birthday on Facebook.  I did hear back from EFIC about their epic fail, which is the Education Funding Improvement Committee’s final report.  Apparently “their work isn’t done yet” after having a due date of March 31st which was extended until June 30th.  Publius disappeared from Kilroy’s Delaware about a month ago and hasn’t been seen since.  He said something about the sign is in the yard.  It makes me very curious why he would feel he shouldn’t comment “anonymously” on a blog anymore.  Especially in light of a recent vacancy in Dover (totally speculating on this one folks).  Unless…

Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

No Charter Renewal For Delaware College Prep

logo

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted unanimously not to renew the charter for Delaware College Preparatory Academy.  The Delaware charter school serves students from Kindergarten through 5th grade.  But they will be closing at the end of the year.  Will they go quietly into the night?  Or should we expect some pushback like Moyer and Reach attempted to do last year?  My guess is on the latter.  At the meeting, Delaware College Prep Head of School Angela Dennis gave public comment asking the board to keep the school open.  Another teacher gave a public comment as well.  The Board had no discussion before the vote.  Many folks in the audience came just for the Delaware College Prep decision, and they were not happy about the decision.

Rumors had been swirling over on Kilroy’s about this type of action as far back as last March.  I wrote about the Red Clay charter committee’s recommendation for non-renewal last month.  In October, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found Delaware College Prep had some suspicious financial abuses regarding Board President Yardise Jones but nowhere near the level of abuse at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.

It looks like another Delaware charter is one for the books.  Tomorrow, we find out about Delaware Met.  Will any other charters get yanked this year?  With the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores not counting for last year, I would tend to doubt it unless something goes terribly awry at one of them in the next six months.

Red Clay’s board did renew the charter for Delaware Military Academy as well as approving their modification request to increase their enrollment.  But only after they made the head of school promise that this was contingent on funding to build additions to the school.  Commandant Anthony Pullella said yes.

15 Who Made An Impact On 2015: The Charter Thieves

The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez.  The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover.  Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases.  And that was just the verified amount.  Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware.  That is some serious coin!

Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools.  *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher.  Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there.  Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet.  Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.

Many are wondering why the three are not in jail.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter.  This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators.  The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques.  When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse.  Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools.  In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds.  While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many.  Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!

*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up.  Apologies for the error!

Delaware Charters Getting Whiney About Wanting Capital Funding For Construction Costs

Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal just wrote an article on Delaware Military Academy looking to expand.  During their charter renewal process, Delaware Military Academy (DMA) asked for a modification to increase their enrollment from 566 cadets to 715 over the next five years.  To do so, they would need additional facilities to hold the students.  They need capital funding to do this.  Delaware charter law explicitly states charters in the state do not receive capital funding.  Another Delaware charter, Odyssey, was highlighted in the News Journal a couple weeks ago for wanting this as well.  Albright wrote:

The school has a plan for how to expand, but it does not know yet how it will pay for it.  This is a common concern for charter schools because they do not get capital funding from state government like traditional schools do. That means charters must stretch their budgets if they want to build new facilities or make major renovations.

That is the way the law was written Matt!  Come on, you know this.  So why are you pandering to the charters?  I don’t see you asking citizens to vote yes in traditional school district school referendums.  This is just a big advertisement for the legislators.  This is how the charter community works.  They get the News Journal to write stories about what they are sorely lacking, right before the legislative session begins, in the hopes it will become an “issue”.  If I were the Red Clay board, I wouldn’t approve this modification if the school does not have the ability to hold the additional students and doesn’t have the funding available.  This is very poor planning on DMA’s part.  Crying poor after they submit a modification but before it is even approved shows poor judgment.

A recent bill which passed in the Florida House of Representatives would allow charters in the state to get 40% of the district’s funding for capital costs.  The capital funding part was just a part of a larger bill, but the bill had no controversy until the capital funding section was added.  Other highlights of the bill include:

The proposal would create the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation to help new charter schools. It would also make it easier for top-performing charter schools to replicate themselves in high-need areas and specify that charter schools receiving back-to-back Fs would be automatically closed.

This is something Commandant Anthony Pullella, the leader of DMA, is already pushing for.

Pullella isn’t calling for the state to instantly start giving charters as much capital money as it does traditional school districts. But he does believe schools should be able to earn some assistance if they prove they are effective.

He proposes, for example, a graduated system in which a charter could earn 25 percent of a traditional school’s capital funding after five years of proven success. It could progressively earn more the longer it continues to show it is successful.

I could easily see some of the legislators in Delaware trying something similar to what the Florida House just passed.  In addition, other parts of the Florida charter bill are taking shape in Delaware.  We are seeing this with the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  As well, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee recommended an organization to oversee all the Wilmington charter schools.

Charter schools were required to be models of innovation that local districts could emulate.  But the problem with the perceived success Pullella talks about is the fact that this is based on standardized test scores.  This is the barometer of all public schools success in Delaware.  There is also the question about the school population and how charters select their applicants.  Any school can be a success if the application process is flawed and only the best and the brightest are allowed in.  This is something quite a few charter schools in Delaware have issues with.  Including the biggest: Charter School of Wilmington, another Red Clay authorized charter.

But the big kicker is this: what happens if the school closes?  Since charters are considered corporations and they are not state-owned, the property would revert back to that corporation.  Any funding a state kicked in would be lost forever.  Something Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams brought up in the News Journal article as well:

“What if the school closes? Does the state get the building? It’s kind of a gray area,” she said. “DMA is very popular with parents. But they knew coming into this that that kind of funding was not available to them.”

Chances are we will see that exact situation play out in exactly one week when the State Board of Education will most likely revoke Delaware Met’s charter and have them close after this marking period ends.  While the school received no capital funding, they did receive $175,000 as part of the Delaware Charter School Performance Fund.  Money from this fund can go to capital costs with very little oversight.  We are now seeing, after twenty years of charters siphoning off more and more local school district dollars,  Delaware charters wanting to change the playing field even more in their favor.  Even though they get tons of money from the Longwood Foundation, they still want more.  Based on an illusion of success called standardized test scores.  And as usual, they find a public spotlight in the form of the News Journal.

When folks say I am anti-charter, I’m not.  I’m all about following the rules.  If it isn’t Family Foundations Academy squandering over a million dollars, or Delaware Met’s self-nuking a month after they opened, its stuff like this that drives me crazy about charters.  They brag about how great they are and act like they don’t have any money.  But DMA apparently had extra money to spend when they went through their own investigation with the Delaware State Auditor’s office a few years ago.  And lets not even get into special education at a lot of these charters.  They know exactly what I’m talking about, right guys?

I fully expect to see someone, possibly a Republican State Rep. or Senator, to introduce some crazy legislation like this in Delaware during the second part of the 148th General Assembly.  The big difference between Florida and Delaware is that the Republicans don’t hold the majority in the First State.  My recommendation to Delaware charters: stop whining about what you don’t have and looking for short cuts.  You know where to go to get that kind of money, so give the DuPonts a call.  Or one of the numerous charter-loving “foundations” or “non-profits” out there.  But stop asking an already cash-strapped state for more money.  And stop expecting to get more from the local districts.  Because at the rate you are “expanding” and “growing”, you are getting more of the local share of school district money than you ever were.  But what happens when those districts reach the breaking point, and they are no longer able to pass referendums?  Look at Christina as a model of this.  Cause if you don’t, you will end up shooting yourselves in the foot.

The one thing charters in Delaware do much better than traditional school districts is parent engagement.  I don’t think anyone will contest that.  But please, stop brainwashing these parents into reaching out to the media to get your way.  The bizarre cult-like fascination with some Delaware parents and charters is bad enough as it is.

As for the News Journal: please stop with your charter loving articles.  Yes, you write about the bad too.  But you try to bring issues up not because they are truly newsworthy, but because you are getting calls from the charter lobbyists who also happen to be aligned with your biggest advertisers.  It’s called bias, and it is well-known throughout the state.

Delaware College Prep & Delaware Military Academy Also Up For Charter Renewal…Will Delaware College Prep Survive?

Charter Schools authorized by the Red Clay Consolidated School District go through charter renewals, modifications, and formal reviews through Red Clay, not the Delaware Department of Education.  Both Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep are up for charter renewal this year.  Delaware College Prep was in the news very recently when the State Auditor found some financial abuse going on by the school leader.  Kilroy’s Delaware has raised several red flags about this school in the past six months.  They are also on probation status based on their formal review last year for academic performance.  Here is their charter renewal application:

And the exhibits and other information that are mentioned in the application can be found here:

Interesting that they have no parent representative on their school board as of October 1st, but they are “actively looking”.  Here is the agenda for this portion of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, 10/21/15:

Last year, we saw Moyer and Reach Academy close.  Two years before that, Pencader Business School closed.  Will we have two more Delaware charters close this  year?  Delaware College Prep and The Delaware Met?  And what will fill the void?  New charter applications in Wilmington have a moratorium until at least 2017.  What I can see is more charters submitting modification requests to increase their enrollment.  In the meantime, keep an eye out on Delaware College Prep.  Just because the DOE doesn’t cover this is not an indicator that Red Clay won’t hold them accountable.  I would love to see their reaction to the State Auditor report!

Glitch In DOE Reporting Fails To Show School Offenses & Crimes Data For Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep, & Delaware Military Academy

How about those apples? I actually found a huge technicality in the DOE reporting system for bullying and the DOE fixed it in record time.  Contrary to popular belief, things at the Red Clay charter schools are NOT as rosy as the past couple years of bullying and discipline reports provided by the Delaware Department of Education would have you believe.  I was very puzzled when I saw, for two years in a row, none of these three charters had their individual reports come up on the DOE School profiles website.  I emailed John Sadowski, the Program Manager for Climate and Discipline at the DOE this morning and advised him of this.  As of 12 noon, the reports are now available.

I’m not sure what happened, and it didn’t change the Annual bullying report I posted this morning, but it does show some things parents would not have seen before this fix.  I would like to believe this happened because of the odd nature of Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Military Academy being the only charters in the state authorized by a school district.  In this case, the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Using Delaware College Prep as an example, this is the only information parents could see for them on the School Profiles page of the DOE website:

Number of Reported Offenses (2014-15)
School District State
School Crimes (Title 14, Delaware Code, §4112) 1 74 678
Department of Education (DOE) Offenses 23 1,239 10,432
All School Safety Policy in Place N/A
Suspensions and Expulsions
2014-15
Number of Suspensions 44
Number of Expulsions 0
Count of Students Suspended/Expelled 23
September 30 Enrollment 569
Percent of Students Suspended/Expelled 4%
District Percentage 11%
State Percentage 12%

When you hit the tab for details in both these sections you get to see a breakdown for this data as you can see in the below reports. But before 12 noon today, it didn’t come up for the three Red Clay charters while it did for every other public school in the state.  I put up both the reports for Red Clay, before and after so you can see the difference.

Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 6:59am, 10/7/15.
Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 12:25pm, 10/7/15
Charter School of Wilmington Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware College Prep Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware Military Academy Combined Report 2014-2015

So what got me all interested in Red Clay charters and these reports?  It had a lot to do with this article.  I knew the student was suspended for many days over suspected drug activity. I wanted to be sure Charter School of Wilmington reported it right to the state since that was part of the issues at the time. I believe they did, because it shows 20 students were suspended from the school for a total of 118 days.

I don’t believe this was an intentional mistake on the DOE’s part, but oversight and making sure all the reports came up would have been prudent. I’m glad they fixed it though and parents can see what actually happens in terms of reportable offenses at these three schools.

With the current issues Delaware College Prep is going through, knowing they have had 18 fights and a violent felony might be something the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education may want to know about. Although I am curious what the two Delaware DOE offenses are for Delaware Military Academy with nothing checked off in the sections for that category.  Maybe they aren’t done fixing it…

Kuumba, DE College Prep, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations, Providence Creek, DE Military Academy, Pencader…When Do We Make It Stop?

Charter school financial abuse.  It happens.  All the time in Delaware.  It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes.  These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket.  But our State Government allows this to happen.  Delaware has no Inspector General.  Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass.  And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it.  State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits.  Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no.  It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first.  Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.

These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done?  These are not elected board members at charters.  And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members.  Many of the charters websites are a joke.  Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up.  No charter board records their meetings.  No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that.  None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time.  The average citizen would in a New York minute.  But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us.  We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.

Let me get one thing straight.  I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE.  I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools.  I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses.  The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?”  But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it.  But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment.  It has become a joke.  The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools.  And the results of all these reports are always the same.

The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group.  If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card.  If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?

And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.”  While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business.  Children are not a profit center.  They go to school to learn.  They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank.  They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board.  If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education.  I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later.  And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this.  About all this education nonsense in our state.  You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell.  You answer to the people that elected you.  The people are sick of the abuse and scandal.  And we are waking up.  Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong.  It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something.  Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January.  Stop the fraud playing out in our state.  Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.

*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats.   The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.