Delaware Design-Lab Is Below 65% Enrollment… Time For Formal Review?

In 2016, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a major modification request to lower their enrollment.  This year, they are supposed to be at 475 students based on that approval.  Charter schools have to be at 80% enrollment to be financially viable.  That number would be 380 for Delaware Design-Lab High School this year.  They are below 300 students according to sources.  Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting recommend formal review for the struggling charter school?

The dangling carrot for Design-Lab is their $10 million prize from XQ.  The school is currently interviewing positions for their three deans.  But those funds can only be used for very specific purposes.  It is not meant for salary increases for teachers.  But according to an anonymous source, the Interim Head of School (Rebecca Collins) is promising teachers increases.  How can the school afford this with their low enrollment?  Many teachers are fearing for their jobs due to the school’s low enrollment.  Since the Board of Directors ousted Dr. Joseph Mock a couple of weeks ago, a wave of parents have pulled their kids out.  Their enrollment tally was due to the Delaware Department of Education on Friday because of the annual September 30th enrollment count.

Historically, the Delaware State Board of Education has put charters on formal review for low enrollment because below 80% charters are not financially viable.  Many charters (including Design-Lab) faced this review in 2015.  They all squeaked by with higher enrollment by the time the State Board voted that July.

For a charter like Design-Lab, they had their enrollment lowered after that and still can’t get anywhere close to their approved numbers.  Many parents don’t seem to be wowed by the XQ award.  Three different leaders have been in charge in the past nine months with another new one coming on.  I did find out Rebecca Collins did step down from the board to take the interim leader role and plans to go back on the board once the new leader is in place.  But Joseph Mock was definitely fired from his position.

At the Delaware DOE, charters are overseen by the Charter School Office.  Since Denise Stouffer replaced Jennifer Nagourney in July, 2016, no charter schools have been placed on formal review.  Will Delaware Design-Lab High School be the first?

Delaware Design-Lab’s Head Of School Position Was Eliminated. But They Will Be Hiring A “Dean Of Academic Intensity”

The Board at Delaware Design-Lab High School sent parents an email on September 15th letting them know about Head of School Joseph Mock’s removal from the school.  I though he resigned, but this email confirms he was ousted!  Given that they had an emergency board meeting on September 13th, it sounds like this board did follow proper channels with all this (looking at you Ronald Pinkett over at Edison).  Last year, the school won a ton of money in the XQ Super School competition.  They won $10 million from this grant and it looks like they will be branding themselves as an “XQ Super School” next year.  I had to read the email a few times just so I clearly understood (and stopped laughing) what these new administrative positions are.

From: Design-Lab High School

Sent: Friday, September 15, 5:20 PM

Subject: Important Message from the DDLHS Board

Dear DDLHS Families,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to bring you up to date on changes inside school administration as we prepare for the next phase in the process of becoming an XQ Super School in August 2018.

The Board will begin interviews next week for the position of XQ Project Manager and, shortly thereafter, will begin the search for the school’s XQ Dean of Academic Intensity. These leaders, together with a Dean of Engagement and Dean of College and Career Readiness, will guide us through the XQ process and prepare us for the opening of our XQ Super School next fall.

As we shift our administrative structure to help us succeed as a Super School, the Board has decided to eliminate the position of Head of School effective Friday, September 15, 2017. As a result of these changes, we are sad to announce that Mr. Mock will be pursuing other opportunities at this time. Mr. Mock has been an invaluable asset to our school since he joined us as Vice Principal/Special Education Coordinator in 2015. Through his tenure as Principal and Head of School, he has navigated some of the most challenging waters a school can face with grace and commitment. We thank Mr. Mock for all he’s done preparing DDLHS to move into this next phase in our school’s history, and wish him well in his new endeavors.

Mrs. Rebecca Collins will serve as our Interim Executive Director until such time as the new XQ administrative team can be brought on board and up to speed. Mrs. Collins has served as a member of our Board of Directors since early 2016, and she brings a wealth of experience in teaching, law, and school guidance to this evolution. We are confident that this transition will be seamless to our families, staff, and students. If you have not had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Collins, the Board encourages you to say hello the next time you are in the building!

As we move into the next phase of our school’s growth, we look forward to engaging with each DDLHS family to ensure that we faithfully support our mission and provide the best education possible for each student we serve.

Thank you,

Paul Miller

Board Chairman

Rebecca Collins is the Vice-President of the Board.  Is it even legal to be on the board AND lead the school?  Hmm… calling foul on that decision!  And what are all these administrative positions for?  I hope that gets paid out of their XQ grant cause the school doesn’t have enough students to have that many administrators.  Dean of Academic Intensity.  It sounds like a labor camp.  Yes, let’s make school sound as grueling as they want it to be.  Dean of College & Career Readiness.  Hey, I know a guy who would be all over that.  He’s bald and he used to be our Governor.  He just loves college and career readiness!

I would have to imagine with all these changes that could constitute changes in their curriculum as well as their actual charter.  Have they submitted a modification request to the Delaware Department of Education?

The XQ Institute is brought to you by Laurene Powell Jobs and the Emerson Collective.  They LOVE personalized learning and seem to be big players in corporate education reform where we can just solve all the problems in education with some ed tech and less teacher interface with students.

Delaware Design-Lab High School Also Lost Their Leader This Week!

The Head of School for Delaware Design-Lab High School, Joseph Mock, resigned after holding the position for less than six months.  I saw no notification on their website or social media pages.  This happened the same day Dr. Salome Thomas-EL was ousted from Thomas Edison Charter School.

Delaware Design-Lab has faced low enrollment woes since before they opened.  Further complicating matters is the ongoing legal matter with the former Head of School, Christina Alvarez.  They even have a new website.  They do have a board meeting tomorrow night.  They held an emergency session on September 13th to discuss “personnel and contract negotiations”.

Not much information to report, but this DID happen.  That I can say with 100% certainty.

What in the world is going on with our charter schools in Delaware?  It is not good for any school’s stability to play musical chairs with their leaders.  It certainly isn’t good for students!  I would think the school would make an announcement somewhere.  At the very least, I hope parents received an email from the school.  Or perhaps I am breaking this news to the public for the first time…

All the Design-Lab schools run out of Philadelphia.  This is the first (and only to date) Design-Lab school in Delaware.