Matt Denn Letter Rips NCS 5 Mile Radius and HS1 For House Bill 85 But Is Unable To Offer Official Legal Opinion

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn responded yesterday to State Reps. Potter, Bolden and Kowalko’s request for a legal opinion on the constitutionality of HS1 for House Bill 85.  Denn offered valid legal reasons why he was unable to offer a legal opinion, but that he also agrees with the Enrollment Preferences Task Force recommendations for not having the 5 mile radius to begin with and believes all students within a district should be given preference to choicing into a charter school in the same district.

Delaware School Choice Application Data For FY2017 By School District

The New Castle County Data Service Center compiled a report on school choice applications by the residing district for the Fiscal Year 2017 school year.  These are applications parents sent out to choice schools for the school year that began this year.  So these applications went out during the school choice calendar from November, 2015-January, 2016.  At least the bulk of them.  These are applications only, not actual acceptances in choice schools.  A student could have applied to five different choice schools so that would count as five different applications.  There are many districts that do not send this information through the system the Data Service Center provides.  Most of them are in Sussex County, including their largest district, Indian River.

While this is missing a lot of information, especially in Southern Delaware, it does give a good indication of which districts have a lot of choice activity going on and where students are applying.  This is very apparent in Christina.

Last week at the Strategic Plan for Specialized Educational Opportunities meeting at the Delaware DOE, Jeff Klein gave a presentation on this report.  Senator David Sokola asked why the applications don’t address low-income or disabilities.  I responded (as a member of the public) that wasn’t a good idea, especially since the Enrollment Preference Task Force (of which Sokola was on) recommended NOT having those items on choice applications.

Rep Kim Williams Rips Into The Delaware DOE During Public Meeting

The Delaware Dept. of Education held the third meeting of the Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities in Delaware today.  I can’t even make an abbreviation out of that one.  Do not be confused with the Strategic Plan for Special Education that the DOE is also working on.  In any event, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams was NOT a happy camper.  While she is not a member of this committee, she attended the meeting and had some words to say to the DOE.

Apparently this committee came about as a result of an amendment on House Bill #56, the Wilmington charter school moratorium legislation signed by Governor Markell in 2015.  The Dept. was tasked with reviewing all educational opportunities in the state including charter, district, and vo-tech.  The DOE contracted with Public Consulting Group (PCG) to write up the report which came out last December.  PCG continued to work on the strategic plan and came out with another report in October.  In the October report, PCG made a reference to a District-Charter Collaboration Task Force.  Which is ironic since they didn’t post minutes nor did they come out with a final report.

At one point during the meeting today, Delaware Senator David Sokola mentioned a need for low-income and special education information on school choice applications.  David Blowman from the Delaware DOE allowed me to speak and I mentioned how the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, of which Sokola was a member, voted in the majority that information like that should not be on choice applications.  I mentioned that it was recommendations from the task force but it showed a clear decision to not have those items on choice applications.  Blowman agreed with me and said those items should not be on applications.  This prompted Rep. Williams to speak…

In August, Rep. Williams contacted the DOE about this strategic plan.  She contacted PCG and discussed the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which met for a year and a half, kept all their minutes, and came out with a mammoth-sized final report which was sent to the DOE and the General Assembly.  She emailed a link to PCG.  Nothing even mentioning the Enrollment Preferences Task Force made it into PCG’s October report.  Williams blasted the DOE for this by stating she failed to understand how this strategic plan is meant to provide opportunities for ALL students.  She was clearly (and understandably) upset the report gave no mention to a task force she devoted a year and a half to.  But the District-Charter Collaboration Task Force, which had severe issues with transparency and no final report.  It was obvious to many in the audience that this oversight was not simply a mistake on PCG’s report.  I know for a fact the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson worked with PCG on their initial report which came out a few days before the final report for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force came out.

Senator Sokola asked Williams why she didn’t introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the task force during the last legislative session.  Williams explained that the legislation wouldn’t have come out until March of this year and everyone was very wrapped up in the WEIC redistricting plan.  Sokola said he can see that.  But Williams did say she will be introducing legislation based on those recommendations when the General Assembly comes back in January.  Williams argued that if she didn’t look at the October report from PCG and she didn’t attend this meeting, the DOE wouldn’t have even thought to mention the work 27 members of the task force worked on for a year and a half into this strategic plan.  There was no clear response from Blowman or Susan Haberstroh (also with the DOE).

Williams mentioned the glaring omission two times.  Eventually, Haberstroh assured the committee and Rep. Williams the Enrollment Preference Task Force report would be a part of the strategic plan.  This was supposed to be the last meeting of this committee but once the subject of enrollment barriers came up it was obvious the committee would need to meet again which all agreed to.

There is something about this committee that seems off.  Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques talked about the Christina School District a few times when talking about surplus school seats.  As well, the subject of empty buildings districts own came up.  I always find it to be odd when Sokola and Jaques, who are in their seats primarily because of voters from the Christina School District, tear into them.  I didn’t trust it when Sokola mentioned having information on choice applications he knew damn well shouldn’t be on there.

When Jeff Klein with the University of Delaware presented a report on choice applications by zip code, he did say there was a section in Maryland.  Sokola mentioned it could be a teacher sending their child to a Delaware school.  Which I assume to be Newark Charter School.  The DOE responded by saying it would be illegal for Delaware to pay for a Maryland student in a Delaware school.  Sokola had a puzzled look on his face…

Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked a question similar to one she asked at the meeting a few weeks ago.  She questioned why, as an example, if Woodbridge and Delmar school districts wanted a culinary program but didn’t have enough students to have a program, why they couldn’t push for opening a charter school to serve that need.  Heath Chasanov with Woodbridge explained they do have a program with Delmar that Del Tech coordinates.  I don’t fault Kendall for asking the question, but it would be more financially feasible for the districts to work together to offer programs in coordination as opposed to opening a brand new charter school that may or not fail.  This was echoed by David Blowman.

I did find out, 100%, that there are NO plans for Prestige Academy to merge into EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations.  Massett did explain that all the Wilmington charters are working with Prestige for a smooth transition for the students when the charter closes at the end of the year.

To read the reports PCG came out with in October, please see below.

Former Charter School Of Wilmington Board Member Finds New Home At Gateway Lab School

For Immediate Release:

Dover, DE

August 19th, 2016

Henry Clampitt, a Hockessin resident in the suburbs of Wilmington, DE, joined the Board of Directors at Gateway Lab School.  Clampitt previously served as a board member for the top-rated but controversial Charter School of Wilmington.  He is also a very vocal public speaker at Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meetings.  In a sense, Clampitt has gone from one of the highest-rated (as measured by standardized test scores) schools in the state to one of the lowest.  While this hasn’t been officially announced by the charter school known for serving high populations of special needs students, he does appear on the list of their Board of Directors as shown in the below graphic.  It is unknown when he officially joined the board since their board meeting minutes have not been updated even though they have had two official board meetings since then.

As a boisterous supporter of Delaware charter schools, Clampitt served on the Enrollment Preference Task Force in Delaware and supported charter schools abilities to pre-test students prior to enrollment.  He also serves as a member of the Legislative Advisory Committee for the Delaware Charter Schools Network, a lobbyist organization that advocates and protects charter schools in Delaware.  He received a certification from the Delaware Department of Education for Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and Board Member Finance Training.  In addition, as per his LinkedIn account, Clampitt received his real estate certification from the Delaware Department of Professional Regulation.  In addition to his job at Strategy Services, Inc., Clampitt keeps himself very busy with his support of charter schools.

A source, who wished to remain anonymous but did allow me to use their alias “CherryPicker2016”, said the following about Clampitt’s new role:

I think Clampitt will be a wonderful addition to Gateway Lab School.  He has the charter school expertise and wherewithal to serve on a charter school board.  He knows his way around charter schools given his time at Charter School of Wilmington.  I believe any board member is a good thing, whether they are publicly elected or not.  Why wouldn’t Gateway want a fervent charter supporter like Clampitt?

Another source, who also wished to remain anonymous but also allowed me to use their alias of “Erece Desiul Blup” had this to say:

This guy talks and talks.  I hope Gateway invested in some good audio recording devices for their board meetings and have a lot of memory on their servers.  They are going to need it.  Perhaps this means he won’t be going to as many Red Clay board meetings.  That would be super!”

I did advise Mr. Blup that this blog will be very interested to hear what Mr. Clampitt has to say at future Gateway board meetings.

Rumors swirled months ago that Clampitt may be attempting to run against Red Clay Board Vice-President Kenneth Rivera next year, but nothing came of that.  Additional rumors, based on a fake Twitter account, suggested that Clampitt was using an alias to post on a local blog in support of charter schools, but that has never been 100% substantiated.  That particular anonymous commenter gave a farewell post on the local blog a while back indicating they would no longer be posting there, it was time to move on, and something to the effect of “the lawn sign is down”.  The commenter has not been back since.

Ironically enough, Clampitt served on the board at CSW during a tough time in the public spotlight.  In December of 2014, CSW was named in a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union against the Red Clay Consolidated School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The complaint alleged that CSW, along with other charter schools in the state, were furthering discrimination in the state by allowing charter schools to use selective enrollment preferences in their admissions processes.  The Red Clay Consolidated School District is Charter School of Wilmington’s authorizer.  At that time, Charter School of Wilmington had a .2% population of students with disabilities, 6% African-American students, 2.3% low-income students, and .1% English Language learners.  Since Clampitt left their board, CSW was able to raise those student populations.  As of the 2015-2016 school year, they jumped to .5% students with disabilities, 6.8% African-American students, 3.7% low-income students and .2% English Language learners.  At the same time as the ACLU complaint, Clampitt served on the board during an era of “non-transparency” as “Cherrypicker2016” put it, and the board was criticized by their authorizer for not putting board minutes and financial information on their board site as required by Delaware state code.

During this time, Gateway Lab School was in the midst of their own turmoil.  They were up for charter renewal with the Dept. of Education.  The initial recommendations coming out of the committee were to close the school over low standardized test scores, but a public outcry from parents of the school, other charter school supporters, legislators, and concerned citizens and organizations prompted the Delaware State Board of Education to put the charter school on probation.  This reporter did comb through the hundreds of pages of public comment during this process and was unable to find any letters of support for the school from Clampitt or Charter School of Wilmington.

In an October, 2015 Delaware Charter Schools Network newsletter, Clampitt was chosen as the “Parent Spotlight” recipient.  When discussing education politics, Clampitt did not recommend this for everyone.

Education politics is a challenging topic. I would say that parents should only get involved in educational politics if they can keep focused on the issues rather than on the people behind them.  The political process is not for the faint of heart.

When asked in the same newsletter what he would do if he had a million dollars, Clampitt responded with:

Well, let’s be clear that this would be “the million dollar windfall” I have been waiting for. When it arrives, I would like to use it to help endow a fund for the expansion of CSW so that more students could be enrolled and enjoy this excellent high school experience.

Clampitt did not elaborate if this imaginary CSW expansion would entail changing their enrollment preferences.  But after Clampitt left the board at CSW, their board did begin to talk about these topics in a new light.  When asked about this very topic during one of the Enrollment Preference Task Force meetings, their board minutes from October, 2014 reflect a response from Clampitt as:

Some students, possibly due to a bad day or other life experiences, do not make it to the specific interest through the rubric.

At the next meeting of the task force, Clampitt said:

Assessments are an important tool to gather necessary information on an applicant, using interest as an example.

In February of 2013, Clampitt volunteered his services to the now closed charter school, Pencader Business School.  He attempted to train their newly constructed board prior to their charter revocation by the State Board of Education.

This blog would like to congratulate Mr. Clampitt for furthering his voluntary efforts on charter school boards.  While this blog may not always agree with charter schools, this blog does feel it is important for certain charter school board members to serve on charter school boards.  Charter schools are autonomous of many rules and regulations traditional school districts are subjected to, so this blog feels it is necessary to point out the difference between non-elected charter school board members and publicly elected district board members.  Mr. Clampitt has a very fine and distinguished career serving on charter school boards.

GatewayClampitt

 

Delaware Enrollment Preference Task Force Final Report Released Today

Coming in at 489 pages, this is a mammoth report!  I know Delaware State Representative Kim Williams has worked on this for a long time.  Congratulations to all the members of the task force for their hard work with this group.  I only managed to get to one of the meetings, but I really wish I could have gone to all of them.  This task force came out of Delaware House Bill 90.  Its mission was to take a very hard look at how Delaware charter schools, vocational schools, and magnet schools select their students.  I haven’t even been able to come close to finishing this, but it is well worth the time.

Charter School of Wilmington Story Still Has Many Questions About Due Process And Discrimination Left Unanswered

CSWStudent just wrote a comment on the CSW story that really showed me a different picture of the school:

Some important things that this article ignores.

Firstly, the description of the distribution of ethnicity at Charter vs. the demographic of Wilmington, DE. The Charter School of Wilmington conducts its admittance based on an entrance exam. This exam is open to everyone, including the entire eight grade population of Wilmington. As a current student at CSW, it is to the best of my knowledge that there is a very slim number of the city of Wilmington residents that even apply to the school. This could likely be because students in the city may not feel like they have received an education that adequately prepares them for the rigor of CSW, which presents a new problem entirely. The education of Wilmington during the middle school years needs to be boosted and improved to a level where the students from that demographic can excel in the environment that CSW supports.

CSW is not a school for everyone. What makes it so special to me is the drive and motivation that every student there possesses. I am one of four kids from my middle school that was accepted at CSW. We applied, were accepted, and excel because we take the extra step, we attend seminars, we do extracurriculars. It has nothing to do with discrimination. If you meet the standards of the school, you have as good a chance as ANYONE else to get in.

Similar to the student in this article, I am not the general mold that you describe. I live out of the Red Clay School District, I don’t “comb my hair to the side”, and I take the bus every day as a senior (I would love a pick-up truck). I know the student who this article is mentioning, and I disagree in describing him as a minority who doesn’t fit in. I personally like him, and he has always been a popular, well known member of the community.

I love the Charter School of Wilmington. It has presented me with varying challenges that push my boundaries, and I have used the opportunities presented to me to push myself and learn all that I can. Articles like this slander the name and reputation of a school that provides an incredible environment for exceptional and unique students. I have never once seen any form of discrimination, and personally am upset by these accusations.

To which I responded:

Thank you for your comments CSW student. I think your comments do more to prove my point about selective student enrollment than anything I could have ever written. I never said the student didn’t fit in. CSW should be a school for everyone. I attended an Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting discussing the very idea of placement tests as a method of enrollment. It was overwhelmingly agreed by all but 2-3 people on this task force of about 20 members, that any placement test should be given AFTER a student was accepted. You wrote “this article slanders a school that provides an incredible environment for exceptional and unique students”. Would you like to know who else has exceptional and unique students? The rest of Delaware. In fact, the term “exceptional” in Delaware typically means students with disabilities, of which CSW has .2% of their students on an IEP. The discrimination happens before a student ever gets through the door there. By picking these “exceptional and unique students” the discrimination has already been committed.

Furthermore, your comments show exactly why CSW has the “reputation” it does as an outstanding school. Which is causing me to rethink some things. This article proves CSW may keep certain people out of the school but they can’t keep everyday problems out of the school. But they sure can do their best to cover it up to make everything look pretty on the outside. You have inspired me for my next article. Thank you.

I posted earlier today about a fact that was not given to me until after I posted my article on Sunday.  In examining this fact, it may not be the overall “smoking gun” it appears to be.  There are still several questions about due process on the school’s part that have not been answered to my satisfaction.  So I will challenge the Charter School of Wilmington to reach out to me to present those facts.  Because here’s the bottom line: no matter what evidence the school thinks they had, did they follow state code and law in determining guilt or innocence?  Was their coercion involved?  Why did they not notify the police right away?  Why did the police wait 23 days to make an arrest which just happened to be the student’s 18th birthday?  Where is the paperwork involved with this incident?  Can the school provide any of this paperwork?  Why did they wait so long to report it to the DOE when state law says they have to submit it within two business days?  Would they have reported it had the mother not already called the DOE and found out there was NO reporting of the incident?  Did the school make their “deal” of suspension with services and no walking at graduation or expulsion to all four of the students involved?  Can they legally make “deals” like that?  How many “deals” have they performed without public knowledge?  Are they aware this greatly affects public impressions of their school by skewing the data involved when parents seek out schools for their children?  Did they follow state law for search and seizure? Were they allowed to search through a student’s cell phone and open up apps?  Was there involvement by the Board of Directors during any of this process?

I’ve received many comments from folks who I believe to have strong ties with Charter School of Wilmington.  They are all anonymous.  They have asked me to prove one case of discrimination against the school.  Look at their demographics.  It may be legal in Delaware, but don’t think it doesn’t spit in the face of every single Title I, IDEA and civil rights law in the country.  This is a charter school pretending to be a private school, and Delaware has allowed this for seventeen years.  We can all sit here and pretend they are the best school in the state, but let’s not forget how they got there.

As for Bill and his mother, were mistakes made, yes.  I even made some mistakes with this story.  But when does one story become bigger than the individuals involved and the heart of it becomes a systemic issue within the school?  In my opinion, if the school is concealing information with regards to incidents happening there, then they are allowing these incidents to happen in the first place.  And then they want to complain when one mother wants to stand up and fight this system?  In my eyes, no matter what Bill did, concealing incidents at a school and giving students and parents a “Sophie’s Choice” with discipline is manipulative and deceitful.  Is it to protect the students or is it to cover their own ass?

**Updated**5/20/15, 10:13pm: I do not expect CSW to provide documentation to me concerning this incident.  What I do hope to see is this issue seeing the light of day in regards to due process, and as a result of that, this documentation would be seen by someone who would be able to render a legal decision on due process in this case.

Delaware General Assembly May Produce Bill To Ban Charter Enrollment Preferences

“I don’t know how much longer we can talk about the high-performing charter sector if there’s an asterisk next to some of them” because of the preferences, she (Jennifer Nagourney) says.

Jaques says the House Education Committee may consider legislation this spring to remove preferences from the admissions process.”

According to this article from Larry Nagengast on WDDE, the 148th General Assembly may see a bill introduced to get rid of charter school enrollment preferences in Delaware.  Discussion in the article was around the whole charter school environment in Delaware, but this shocker towards the end caused my jaw to drop.

I think it’s great that Jennifer Nagourney with the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education is taking a hard look at the reality of charters in Delaware, specifically Wilmington.  With a pending ACLU complaint being looked at by the US DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, as well as clarification from a leading national charter school organization, the writing is on the wall.

At the last meeting of the Enrollment Preference Task Force, which stemmed out of House Bill 90, Alex Medler with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers told the task force any specific interest enrollment preference should only be used if it would allow needed students into the school, i.e. low-income, minority, special needs, etc.

Finally, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques says something that makes sense!  One thing is for sure, this would change the conversation about choice in Delaware.

To read the full article, please go here:

http://www.wdde.org/74292-charter-schools-1

Freire Wants To Get Rid Of Specific Interest As Well Due To Non-Compliance With Federal Regulations

Early College High School isn’t the only Delaware charter school that has submitted a major modification request with the Delaware Department of Education to remove specific interest as an enrollment preference.  Freire, scheduled to open in the 2015-2016 academic year, is also requesting this.

Once again, the Charter School Accountability Committee asked a charter school for a copy of the Federal Guidance (posted yesterday in the article before this one).  Is the Delaware DOE not aware of this?  How could they not be?  The National Association of Charter School Authorizers had a presentation with the Delaware State Board of Education earlier this month and they were scheduled to present to the Enrollment Task Force but that meeting was canceled due to inclement weather.

At the Delaware State Board of Education meeting on 2/19/14, during the Charter School Review presentation by the Director of Charter Schools, Jennifer Nagourney, the subject of the modification requests for both schools came up.  She did acknowledge both schools want compliance with Federal Guidance based on applying for Federal start-up grants, but nothing was discussed about this enrollment preference practice in Delaware or the wisdom behind continuing this in light of Federal guidance which suggests otherwise.

To listen to this part of the State Board of Education meeting, please go here: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=4240&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=13013&PageID=1770

Enrollment Preference Task Force Meeting Canceled Tomorrow Night

Just in case anyone was getting really excited to see the “choice” activists vs. the public school district advocates, I wanted to let you know due to the polar vortex tainted snowmageddon the meeting is canceled.  There is a tentative meeting for March 10th (Smarter Balanced Day in Delaware, have you opted your child out yet?).  No word yet if Alex Medler from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers will be able to attend.  Mark it on your calendar and try to come.  It’s free, it’s cozy, and you can give public comment!

Watch Grown Men in Delaware Justify Discrimination! Enrollment Preference Task Force Meeting Tomorrow Night!

The ninth meeting of the Delaware Enrollment Preference Task Force will happen tomorrow night at the Buena Vista Conference Center in New Castle, from 6:30 to 8:30pm.  Special guest Alex Medler with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers will give a presentation.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams and Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore lead this group of charter school, vocational and public school district spokespersons.

I went to the December meeting.  It’s fun watching intelligent, grown men actually try to justify the discriminatory practices their schools use to “attract” students.  Even scarier is how much people buy the lines they sell!  Williams is actually very much against these types of things, so she runs a good show.  Things are coming to a head very soon with these types of practices, so this meeting should be interesting.