Yes, a group of Delaware charters are trying to strike gold over the charter funding issue. Which charters? Newark Charter School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, First State Montessori Academy, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Gateway Charter School, Great Oaks, Kuumba Academy, MOT Charter School, Odyssey Charter School, Providence Creek Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School. As well, there are a handful of parents suing on behalf of their minor children. Below are the complaints filed against Christina and the Delaware DOE. There is also a motion to expedite proceedings. I have not had time to fully read these, but I will after the ESSA Discussion Group meeting tonight. This is going to turn Delaware education on its ear!
The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter of Family Foundations Academy at their board meeting on March 19th. The school is under a probation clause for six months, and they must give paperwork to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education each month for half a year. EastSide Charter essentially took over the school after Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington were terminated for stealing over $90,000 from one of the school’s accounts earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the famous education blogger Diane Ravitch picked up on the original story about Moore and Brewington yesterday. Delaware doesn’t come up often on her blog, but she covers education on a national level. Her blog gets 25,000 to 100,000 readers on a daily basis, so a lot of people read about FFA yesterday! She did refer to Moore and Brewington as co-founders, but Moore came on the scene later. To read the full Ravitchization of Family Foundations, please go here: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/21/delaware-charter-founders-fired-for-alleged-misuse-of-public-money/comment-page-1/#comment-2301018
In the first “Correct The Blogger Challenge” email I received, an anonymous individual under the pseudonym “Education Opinions” wrote to me about my article on EastSide Charter School from last week. They wrote:
This is in response to your 3/10 post “The Recipe Behind the ‘Pixie Dust’ at Eastside Charter: Very High Attrition Rates, Part 1.” I want to start by saying that I don’t work at Eastside, I’m not on their board, I don’t have any kids at the school, I don’t work for the DOE, and I am not related to anyone who meets any of those qualifications either. I am just a community member concerned about the way data (for both traditional and charter schools) is sometimes utilized to make points that might not be completely accurate.
In your post, you state, “Governor Jack Markell gave the keynote speech, and left immediately afterwards for another engagement. He spoke about Eastside Charter School’s great job with closing proficiency gaps, and stated “they have gone from only having 15% of their 5th graders scoring proficient in reading to 66% in just three years.” If only this were true…”. You then go on to post the number of students in each K-6 grade from the year 2009 until the current year, citing high attrition as a reason why this proficiency statistic can’t be true. Continue reading
The Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee made it’s final recommendations in regards to Family Foundations Academy. Their decision: the charter school stays open with a probationary status for one year. I think that is more than fair given that the EastSide takeover is an untried experiment in Delaware.
This is a school that had it’s fair share of issues prior to the takeover. Ex Heads of School Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington collectively embezzled over $100,000 from the school and lest we forget, there were many cultural and academic events going on. The Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education received many complaints about FFA, including special education issues, discipline problems, and staff complaints.
For it’s part, there are several board members at FFA who also serve on EastSide’s board, and many staff members serving dual roles, including the financial director and head of school. Running essentially three schools could be stretching anyone to the max, but EastSide does appear to walk on water.
Given the circumstances with an untested arrangement, what went down at FFA, and the fact that this school was very close to getting shut down, you would think Dr. Lamont Browne and Charles McDowell would be grateful for the reprieve. But no, they have to be arrogant about the whole thing. The fact they would have an issue with the CSAC requesting a different auditor at the end of this year is testament to this fact. The school hasn’t (as of this letter) even had a first meeting with their Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee, and there is little proof FFA even had one prior to last fall. And given what I’m hearing is going on in charterville with money matters, they should count themselves lucky.
The letter also reported Moore and Brewington reached a settlement agreement. Who was this settlement with? Cause the last I heard the duo were heading to the Attorney General’s office! That would be a criminal matter. Browne and McDowell need to check their egos at the door when they go to the State Board of Education meeting this coming Thursday, March 19th. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education will render their final decision on the long, bizarre FFA saga.
On January 15th, the Delaware State Board of Education rendered it’s decision for Family Foundations Academy. The vote was 6-1. The sole “nay” vote came from Dr. Terry Whittaker. I arrived as the vote was rendered, so I was unable to hear the earlier discussion. I was very curious why Whittaker would have voted no, so I listened to the digital audio recording provided here, and the discussion around Family Foundations charter renewal starts about ten minutes into the recording here:
A couple minutes into it, I noticed some back and forth between Whittaker and State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray in regards to people sitting on multiple boards. Here is a transcription of this part:
*Prior discussion about Eastside Charter board members coming to Family Foundations Academy to also serve as board members there.
Dr. Terry Whittaker: So they’re considered from two different charter boards?
Jennifer Nagourney: Yes
Patrick Heffernan: How many members are on the board?
Nagourney: At this point there are 7
Heffernan: Cause that’s usually in the bylaws, right?
Nagourney: In the bylaws, yes.
Gregory Coverdale: January 30th is the date the financial manager will be appointed?
Nagourney: That is the date we will need information about who that person is, yes. As described in the January 12th letter the board is already kind of at work at identifying a transition plan, and obviously bringing the financial (Gray cuts her off)
Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: Was that the letter from Mr. (couldn’t understand name)
Nagourney: And bringing the finances into compliance is Priority 1
Whittaker: I still don’t understand the dual boardmanship role (Gray cuts him off)
Gray: So Miss Kershon, could you explain if there are any specific restrictions or… (Whittaker cuts her off)
Whittaker: Seems like it’s a conflict of interest (Gray continues not even acknowledging Whittaker’s statement)
Gray: …around any individuals serving on multiple or more than one charter boards?
Woman speaking: Under the charter school law a board member can not also be an elected board official in a local school district but there’s no prohibition about sitting on two charter school boards.
Coverdale: I guess it would be similar if someone sat on a bunch of non-profit boards.
Gray: So are we clear about the distinction?
Whittaker: I’m just trying to figure out possibilities of conflicts of interest. That’s my concern.
Donna Johnson: It’s my understanding, if you could clarify Miss Kershon, that that does alread happen, that there are board members who sit on various charter boards?
Miss Kershon: I believe that there are. There’s no apparent conflict of interest here because the school’s aren’t competing or purchasing from each other or there’s not that kind of fiduciary relationship. It’s an independent board so there doesn’t appear to be a conflict unless identified by someone. The law doesn’t prohibit it.
Now where this gets very interesting, and you wouldn’t even make this catch unless you knew about a post by Transparent Christina on December 28th, 2014. This article revealed that State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray sits on the board of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. Not a big deal, right? However, this company received over $250,000.00 from the Delaware Department of Education as a result of Race To The Top funding. It would seem to me that as State Board of Education President sitting on another board that DID have a fiduciary interest with the organization she supports as President of the State Board overseeing that department would count unequivocally as a very clear conflict of interest. Did Whittaker catch this and without saying it outright, advise Gray he knew about this and he was letting her know that he knows? She cut him off two times, and he made sure he got the words “conflict of interest” in there.
As if this isn’t enough of a coincidence, at the end of the meeting, Dr. Gray seemed very upset and almost stormed out of the room, looking visibly upset about something. This could just be conjecture on my part, and I’m sure neither would confirm this, but it makes you think… And it also makes me wonder how many board members benefitted from Race To The Top as a whole. We all know Paul Herdman sits on various boards of the companies that got a lot of money from Race To The Top…
I can not wait for the February 18th House Education Committee meeting to go over exactly how Race To The Top funding was spent!
This has to be the funniest article I’ve seen Albright report on for the News Journal. I talked to him after the State Board of Education meeting, and he said he was going to this “emergency” board meeting they were having. We already know Peter Barry was given “extended leave” by the board. Was this ultra-double-secret board meeting giving him more than an extended leave?
Kendall Massett’s been making the media rounds lately. Someone has to be the spokesperson for the charters, and I guess she is it. Channel 6 ABC News even jumped on the Family Foundations/Eastside thing. I love how the
State Board of Education Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and officials from the Delaware DOE declined an interview. I’m sure they didn’t want to be asked the questions about how the state did nothing while FFA leaders used the school as their personal ATM machine!
Today at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, it was decided the school would be handed over to Eastside Charter School. The 6-1 vote by the Delaware State Board of Education renews the embattled school’s charter but does place them on formal review.
The room was packed with new board members and supporters of the school. While the State Board did discuss many of the financial problems with the school, they did agree to give this new board a chance. Board member Whittaker did not vote for the charter’s renewal.
The Formal Review is based on the charter’s Organizational and Financial parts of their framework. State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office has not released their official audit at this point which could conceivably shed more light on the financial mismanagement at the Wilmington charter school while under the leadership of ex-heads of school Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington.
Updated: A lot more information behind the collaboration between the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Family Foundations Academy and Eastside Charter School can be seen here by the awesome WHYY/Newsworks education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/77394-delaware-spares-troubled-charter-school?linktype=hp_topstory
I’m guessing the State Board of Education gave the charter a sixty day formal review for a couple reasons. 1) To see what may come out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office, and 2) To see if the Eastside crew can actually manage to do double the work for two schools. None of the standardized test cheating I have written about, which has been reported to me by more than one source, was even touched upon by the State Board of Education. Nor was the special education issues brought up by the prior board. I guess since Markell’s Charter Love Child, Eastside Charter, swooped in and saved the day all is forgiven. Don’t get me wrong, I would hate to see any child sent to a new school if they don’t have to. But the charter system in Delaware has so much rot and corruption at so many of it’s schools, or just plain incompetence. In FFA’s board minutes for 12/31/14, one of the board members actually asked about getting a Staples card to help with the technology to pay all the outstanding invoices. It’s called a clue buddy… I’m sure this Eastside board is much more experienced with these types of things, but I remain unconvinced that some of the administration will be able to carry the weight should Eastside ever exit this partnership.
Read this, and then read below for more!
I can’t wait to see the votes on this. There would have to be a quorum of the board for each vote. I hope the board minutes accurately reflect which of the previous board members were present, who voted on what, with all the yeas and nays, and how exactly four board members from another charter school essentially took over the school. It looks like the last two members of the previous FFA board will resign as soon as replacements are found.
I’m sure Governor Markell will have no problem with this cause he loves Eastside Charter and their standardized test scores. It sounds like some backroom deals were made for this to happen. I wonder who initiated all of this. Will Mark Murphy and the State Board base their decision for FFA’s charter renewal on the past or the future?
Updated, 9:20am: I just found this on the FFA website-
At the Family Foundations Academy Board meeting last night, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, previously suspended with leave, were terminated by the board. This ends their long tenure with the school amidst allegations of financial impropriety and mismanagement.
Two other board members, Byron Brooks and Gregory Smith resigned. Out of the original board, only Monnica May and Rayne Fletcher remain. There were five new additions to the board: Jocelyn Stewart, Faculty member Jason Casper, and three Eastside Charter Board members are coming over to the FFA board- Charlie McDowell, Thomas Humphrey and Charles Tolliver. Sadly, I was not given any consideration in my bid for a board seat. I think I’ll be okay.
With the new board, there is much more diversity. Previously, the board had been all mostly all male African-Americans, but now there are four Caucasian and three African-American members with two of them being female and five male. Dr. Lamont Browne from Eastside Charter will be supervising the situation at Family Foundations for the foreseeable future.
The big question will be if these changes are enough for the Delaware Department of Education, who will decide on the embattled school’s charter renewal this Thursday, January 15th, at the State Board of Education meeting. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board will determine if the school will remain open after the end of this school year.
As pointed out by a brilliant commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, Eastside Charters huge “gains” aren’t as transparent as we originally thought. This criteria was based on a 2010-2011 3rd grade class of 62 students compared to the same class which only had 29 students in the 2012-2013 year. How in the hell can you compare the two? You can’t. How do we know some of the lower scoring DCAS students didn’t choice out or leave the school for some reason? Someone has some explaining to do….
More bogus claims from the DOE and Markell to justify the priority schools. And reported by Matthew Albright with the News Journal a few times, including a huge article today. And the governor says comparing schools is making excuses… Stop the madness Markell. Your comments are being exposed for the fraud they are every single day!!!!! People are going to start wondering why you are pushing so damn hard on this a week and a half before January 7th.