When you have 24 charter schools in a state, 22 of which are authorized by the state Department of Education, there are going to be years where the amount of charter renewals are going to go up. This fall, the Delaware DOE Charter School Office and the Charter School Accountability Committee are going to have their hands full as seven charter schools go through their renewal process. Continue reading
In her resignation letter, former Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security Board of Directors President Sherese Brewington-Carr expressed a desire for the charter school to close. As well, she opened a can of extreme whoop-ass on Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett. Five days later, the school and board went through their first meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee and went through a very intense meeting. Las Americas Aspiras Academy Head of School Margie Lopez-Waite lambasted the school in the meeting while begging CSAC to keep the school open another year. Continue reading
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security made some substantial moves at an emergency board meeting Friday night. Including having an existing charter school leader become the President of their board! As well, the distressed charter school put a for lease sign up at their current property. Apparently they have an eye on another charter school’s vacant property.
Margie Lopez-Waite, the current head of school for Las Americas Aspiras Academy in New Castle, DE took over as Board President at their emergency board meeting Friday night. I can’t recall a time seeing an active charter school leader from one school become a board member on another. But this type of situation is not unprecedented. For a brief time, Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey serves on Aspiras’ Board of Directors.
On Tuesday, DAPSS will have their first formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education in Dover. A growing discontent with the former President, Sherese Brewington-Carr, led to the changes. As well, a former board member named Dennis O’Brian went from Emeritus (on the board in honor but not active) to active. Some other new board members were added as well. Many folks have asked me if Sherese is related to Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy and I have not been able to confirm any kinship. Some have speculated they are but Sherese has categorically denied this ever since Tennell’s financial fiasco a few years ago.
Meanwhile, the school put a for lease sign up at their school. They want to move into the old Family Foundations Academy property in New Castle. This is now an administration building for East Side Charter School and Charter School of New Castle (formerly Family Foundations). The first public hearing for DAPSS’ formal review will take place at this building on February 13th.
The Board of Directors at DAPSS has not put up any of their meeting minutes since their November meeting even though they have had three meetings since. They are also out of compliance with putting up their audio recordings of their board meetings as none have appeared since the November meeting as well.
Sources tell me Charlie Copeland has not been active with the school for a very long time and he actually wanted the school closed due to the dwindling enrollment two years ago.
The last time a charter school went through these kind of board member changes was Family Foundations Academy during their own formal review. However, even though FFA was going through a financial-fraudpalooza, they had the student count to justify staying open. DAPSS does not. This should be interesting!
Charter schools in Delaware- they are like a soap opera!
After a crucial Senate Executive Committee hearing, Wali Rushdan was given a unanimous Senate vote for the Delaware State Board of Education about an hour ago.
The Senate Executive Committee met with Rushdan right before the full Senate vote. I must give props to State Senator Nicole Poore for tackling the elephant in the room. She just came right out and asked Rushdan about his affiliation with the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors. Continue reading
Wali Rushdan and Sean Moore. Friends. Members of the same fraternity. Moore, the former Head of School at Family Foundations Academy, convicted of theft and fraud. Rushdan, a former member of the board at FFA, now nominated for a seat on the State Board of Education. Moore, in prison. Rushdan, an attorney at Fox Rothschild. Moore and Rushdan. What did Rushdan know about the situation at FFA? Why has he erased his term on their board from his biography at Fox Rothschild? Why was his bio redone the SAME day he got the nod from Governor Carney for the board seat with the State Board? Did Governor Carney bother to check this matter out and ask the appropriate questions? Who brought forth this nomination to Governor Carney? Questions that need to be answered. Questions our Delaware Senate need to ask right away.
A new name came forth recently in Delaware education. I must admit I had never heard of him before. Or had I? But who is he and how could he become a voice in Delaware education? Continue reading
Finally! I’ve been waiting for this news for a long time. The News Journal reported earlier today that the former Family Foundations Academy Head of School was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for embezzlement.
According to the article, Moore had a bizarre confession to the court:
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Moore claimed “he was suffering from a ‘severe level of sexual addiction and shopping addiction.'”
Alrighty then! Finally this shameful chapter in Delaware public education can come to a close. I highly doubt the school will ever see the return of these funds, but justice has finally been served for this man.
It was three years ago that Kilroy’s Delaware and this blog began to look into the crazy happenings at this school. I spent hours going over their expenses and knew right away something was way off. So did the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office and the Delaware Dept. of Education. It nearly shut the New Castle charter school down. Because Moore used federal funds in his embezzlement, he was brought up on federal charges. The other Head of School, Dr. Tennell Brewington, took state funds so her punishment was not as severe. Last year, Family Foundations Academy changed their name to Charter School of New Castle, perhaps in an attempt to get rid of this dark part of their history.
All five of the Delaware charter schools have received renewal recommendations from the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC). The State Board of Education will decide if they agree at their December 14th meeting. Anyone wishing to submit formal public comment must do so by December 8th. Everything looks good for these charters except for one of them. Which one? Continue reading
What would you do with $145,000? Apparently, for Noel Rodriguez, it was whatever he wanted to do. But the money wasn’t his. Today, the former Principal of Academy of Dover pled guilty in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington according to Cris Barrish with WHYY.
Noel Rodriguez, 56, admitted in U.S. District Court in Wilmington that he stole in a number of ways, including charging personal expenses to four unauthorized school credit cards and a state credit card. He spent the money on electronics, travel, car expenses, gardening and camping equipment, home improvement items and a dog house.
According to the article, the newly christened U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, is in charge of Delaware when it comes to federal matters in court. Rodriguez got a $250,000 fine and will assuredly be facing jail time at his sentencing, up to ten years. What I would like to know is if part of that $250,000 fine goes back to Academy of Dover. I think it should. Taxpayers were robbed by Rodriguez, they deserve to have their tax money go back to what it was allocated for.
The article referenced the State Auditor of Accounts report, conducted by Kathleen Davies in 2014 and 2015.
“A major concern regarding the situation at the [school] is the length of time that passed without any intervention from oversight parties” the school board of directors and auditors, the Department of Education and the Charter School Accountability Committee, the report said.
It is my most fervent hope that all four of those entities know better now and this never happens again in Delaware.
Say, what about Providence Creek Academy? What is going on with their theft of school funds? Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington of Family Foundations Academy and now Rodriguez all pled guilty. What about PCA’s shenanigans? And the fact that one of the entities Davies slammed in her audit investigation just so happens to have PCA’s Head of School on it? The good old Charter School Accountability Committee. Word on the street is Chuck Taylor will be resigning soon and collecting that nice increased pension based on the past three years of service when he came back to rescue the school during the fall of 2014. Say, is that matter still under investigation?
For Rodriguez, this puts a capper on that shenanigan. As the article mentioned, Academy of Dover is still open and they actually increased their enrollment this year.
The teachers at Wilmington’s Thomas Edison Charter School are NOT happy with the Board of Directors today. As I broke the news this morning, Head of School Salome Thomas-EL was removed from the school this morning by the police with the board present. What was the issue?
The school had a surplus of funds from their FY2017 budget to the tune of $534,000.00. The teachers were requesting a 1.5% increase in salary which Thomas-EL asked for from the board. The request was denied. What happened from there I do not know… yet. But to publicly shame a charter leader who is beloved by his staff and the community around him is in very bad taste. Not to mention the appearance this gives to students. This is a school with a low-income/poverty population hovering around 96%. The last thing they need is to see their school leader kicked out of school over what amounts to him fighting for higher teacher pay at a school that is known for having the lowest paid teaching staff in New Castle County. But they can afford to have lavish Christmas parties and send seven people to a charter school conference?
Thomas Edison’s teachers, like all Delaware public school teachers, received either a 1.5% salary increase or $750 (whichever is greater) last year. The board sent a letter to their educators a year ago advising them they would receive this increase but then backed out a couple of months later. The board’s response was that charter schools are not required to give those raises as approved by our state legislators in the annual budget. Based on their board approved budget for FY2017, the amount for salaries was $5,877,429.00. If they gave the 1.5% increase, that would have amounted to $88,161.43. With a surplus of $534,000 (or $588,000 according to their final June 2017 monthly financial statement), that would have been a drop in the bucket. My guess with the increase in local funds of over $176,000 is funds received from the settlement with the Christina School District over local funding. So where is that money going if it isn’t going to teachers? Where does their surplus money go to?
The answer to that is more frightening than the question itself. Thomas Edison has a foundation. The school transfers their surplus money into a foundation account. What happens from there is anybody’s guess. In looking at their July monthly financial position statement, it shows a board approved “transfer” budget which I can only assume is coming from their “foundation” account. In July it shows $25,000 transferred and in August another $25,000. But if the school has a $534,000 variance and they are transferring funds into the foundation account, what is being done with the rest of that money? In looking at their expenditures for May 2017 compared to June 2017, it looks like their expenses went up considerably in June considering school ended that month. And why isn’t the school posting financial statements for their foundation on their website? If I were the State Auditor, I would be looking into this as soon as possible.
This is not an attack on Salome Thomas-EL or the charter school. This is looking to be another round of what the hell is this charter board doing? The optics on this at the time of their charter renewal do not look good. Could this be Family Foundations Academy redux? I would LOVE to see their monthly foundation bank statements! If you have nothing to hide Board of Directors at Thomas Edison Charter School, I am asking that you make your bank statements from your foundation bank account available on your website immediately!
It looks like we need legislation around district and charter “foundation” accounts as well. You hear that legislators!
*To clarify, Salome Thomas-EL was NOT arrested this morning. Police were used to escort him off school premises.
WDEL announced Dr. Tennell Brewington, the former co-head of school of Family Foundations Academy, pled guilty to her role in theft of education funds at the New Castle County charter school. Her whopping sentence: three years in prison but it was suspended. NO jail time. Oh, but she will have probation. Cry me a damn river! You better believe if that was you or I working in the private sector, we would be doing time! But no, not in Delaware, the first to sign the Constitution and the last to follow it. Sorry, this really pisses me off.
As if education funding isn’t jacked up enough, now our courts are saying it is okay to steal money meant for kids. But I guess we need to add new buckets on Delaware Online Checkbook. You know, things like foot massages and pedicures. Give me a friggin’ break here! I guess Audrey Erschen and Chuck Taylor from Providence Creek Academy will get lollipops for their misdeeds there. Or Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover will get some more Disney knick-knacks for showing a little remorse. And the guy from Indian River, Patrick Miller, can get a new boat. But we will throw kids down the river for much lesser crimes. This state is so damn corrupt it isn’t even funny.
And what the hell is up with Sean Moore? That crap isn’t even funny anymore. He is sitting back and laughing at all this. These people are getting away with whatever the hell they want. It appears it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s who you know. Whose palms are getting greased? What political favors are going around to avoid prison time for these clowns? These are kids that are going without. Our courts are saying they care more about the burden of incarcerating influential school “leaders” than sending an example that it isn’t right to steal education funds.
Some lady stole a ton of money from the Cape Henlopen boosters club for baseball or something like that. Over $20,000.00. I can see that example really working there Delaware! That happened after all the charter thieves got caught. I suspect there is a lot more of this going on. Which is why nobody wants to REALLY audit these schools. Providence Creek didn’t learn their lesson the first time. They just got better at hiding it. But like most secrets, they can’t stay buried forever. But what does it matter? The guilty will get off easy. Can’t have all those thieves filling up courtroom space while the courtroom is already filled up with the school-to-prison pipeline kids. Can’t have that!
It seems random events are not so random at Providence Creek Academy, the charter school in Clayton, DE. It now appears that the audit investigation into suspected fraud by a former employee was missing a lot of information. Two other employees were also taking funds meant for students for their own personal use. Head of School Charles “Chuck” Taylor covered it all up. Continue reading
One of the most frequent questions I am asked is “What is going on with Sean Moore from Family Foundations Academy?” Today, I have some answers. It turns out Mr. Moore is awaiting sentencing and struck a plea deal to have the charges reduced. His next sentencing date is August 7th. This date has changed a few times. The other former Head of School from Family Foundations Academy, Dr. Tennell Brewington, actually had a court date today but I have not heard what happened at that one. Once again, no word on Academy of Dover’s former financial scoundrel, Noel Rodriguez except that he was charged by the feds as well. I also heard Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy is working on some sort of “payment plan” to pay the school back in lieu of charges. Good luck with that one! I guess it’s okay for these people to be walking the streets when they took student money from schools.
Below are the court docs that pertain to Moore’s case. Other documents are sealed. If the gentleman who called me last February could please call me again, I would love to continue that conversation. Shoot me an email at email@example.com.
UNITED STATES VERSUS SEAN MOORE
On Friday, I pondered why former Family Foundations Academy leader Sean Moore didn’t get his federal sentencing on March 2nd. One of my sources gave me the rundown. Turns out Moore’s sentencing was rescheduled for tomorrow, April 3rd. But that has been postponed without a new date at this time. I have to admit, I’m very curious how much time a Delaware charter school leader will get for taking money meant for kids. I guess we will find out one of these months. Who wants to start a pool on this? What month do you think Moore will finally go to prison?
Former Family Foundations Academy charter school leader Sean Moore was supposed to receive a federal sentencing for his role in embezzlement of school funds. Nothing of record shows up anywhere. This is very puzzling. Why wouldn’t Moore have been sentenced? I received an anonymous tip a couple of months ago that suggested Moore may have cut a deal with the authorities. Who these authorities may have been is unknown or what the nature of the deal was. Moore was charged by the federal government so any deal would have been with the feds.
If Moore did cut a deal which would be unrelated to education, many Delaware citizens would be VERY upset. This was a man who was charged with looking out for the best interests of children. With a documented amount of over $160,000 stolen from the school, it is painfully obvious Moore had his own best interests in mind. When the allegations first came to light, many parents from the school refused to believe the leader would ever do this, but when it was revealed he did abscond with money meant for kids, parents were disgusted. This was just one of a few Delaware charter schools that came under the spotlight for this sort of thing but it had the biggest profile in the media. If Moore did get a sentencing, it should be public knowledge. He could have faced up to 30 years for his crimes in federal prison.
This saga has dragged out for years. It finally came to light in December of 2014 during the school’s charter renewal. Moore and fellow school leader Dr. Tennell Brewington were terminated. Other members of the board resigned and eventually the board was reconstructed with new members. The school entered a partnership with East Side Charter School which is now under the umbrella called Vision Academies. Family Foundations recently changed its name to The Charter School of New Castle.
Blink and you miss it. I blinked. On January 5th, former Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky approved a minor modification request for Family Foundations Academy to change their name. It is probably a good name. Family Foundations Academy, when mentioned, brings Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington to mind. The Charter School of New Castle sounds better.
The change won’t go into effect until July 1st of this year but it is already being used for marketing purposes. Will we see other charter schools in Delaware change their name?
Meanwhile, I have been getting tons of hits on old Lamont Browne articles in the past couple of weeks. Browne was the Executive Director of East Side Charter School and Family Foundations Academy before he resigned and moved to Colorado. What is Browne up to in Colorado that is garnering this renewed interest in his time in Delaware? Aaron Bass took over after Browne left.
It has been a fairly quiet school year for Delaware charter schools. No outright scandals have come out. None of them, as of this writing, went under formal review. Academy of Dover passed their renewal. Prestige Academy announced they will shut down, voluntarily, at the end of this school year. I am sure the Delaware Dept. of Education is hoping this trend continues with a more calm year!
A few weeks ago, I put up an article about Prestige Academy folding into EastSide Charter School’s mini-empire. I received this information from someone who has always been a very reliable source of information. This person earned their stripes. Since then, I have heard nothing on this. Not one peep. Today, at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, the Charter School Office will give their monthly charter school update. According to this update, Prestige Academy will still close this year. At the beginning of October, I broke the news that Prestige’s Board of Directors wrote a letter to the Delaware Dept. of Education which stated they would not pursue the renewal of their charter and would close at the end of this school year.
So what happened? Got me! Many things could have happened: the original plan of the school closing (which looks reasonable at this point) will go through, my source got really bad information, or this merger with EastSide could still go through but they are holding their cards at this point in time. EastSide swooped in at the last-minute and probably saved Family Foundations Academy from closing down at the beginning of 2015. When it comes to Delaware charter schools and the Delaware DOE, you never know what deals are cooking behind closed doors. I welcome any confirmation on what could be going on here or if, indeed, my source got bad information. Like I said, this source is very reliable.
It sounds like Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is finally clearing up the lingering messes from the charter school financial scandals. Dr. Tennell Brewington, the co-director of Family Foundations Academy, was arrested and charged on October 24th according to Jennifer Flueckiger with WMDT.
A Public Information Officer from the Delaware DOJ told 47ABC that Brewington was arrested on October 24, 2016, and charged with two counts of theft greater than $1500, two counts of unlawful use of a credit card greater than $1500, one count of unlawful use of a payment card less than $1500, and one count of official misconduct.
Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice dealt with a guilty plea from the other co-director of FFA, Sean Moore. He faces a potential prison term of thirty years. If I had to guess, Brewington’s charges from Delaware couldn’t come until she was cleared of any potential federal charges. Or perhaps they were waiting on Moore to give information when he was arrested in another state.
There is no word yet on Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy. State audit investigations found they too stole money from schools. Justice may be slow at times, but it does happen eventually!
22 months after serious allegations arose regarding theft of school funds, justice finally caught up with Sean Moore. The former Family Foundations Academy co-director faced a federal judge today and said he was guilty. When any public schools gets federal funds and some of those federal funds are stolen, the feds get first dibs on prosecution. But Moore made it easy for them by pleading guilty today. He faces sentencing on March 2nd, 2017.
The Family Foundations Academy was probably my first really big investigative piece. It began during their charter renewal process in December of 2014 and stretched out the next few months. I don’t know how much my initial reporting on Moore and fellow co-director Tennell Brewington’s activities led to what happened today. The feds rolled these charges down a couple of months ago. So why did it take so long for Moore to enter a plea? From what I’m hearing, they had to find him first. That took some doing.
Moore’s fellow co-director, Tennell Brewington, is gainfully employed in Delaware. She was terminated from Family Foundations Academy when Moore took over the school during his brief coup-detat but she too was found to have stolen money from the school. Initial reports indicated she did not take as much money as Moore, but if she used any federal funds she too would face a federal judge. If not, I’m still waiting on Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn to do something. And what about Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover? I guess these things take time.
From the United States Department of Justice:
WILMINGTON, Del. – Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Sean Moore, age 43, of New Castle, Del., pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews. Moore is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2017.
According to court records and statements made in open court, between July 1, 2011 and January 31, 2015, while serving as the Director of Finance and Operations for the Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in New Castle, Del., Moore embezzled $161,871 from the school.
Moore accomplished this embezzlement in a number of ways. First, Moore charged personal expenses to an unauthorized credit card he opened in the name of the school. Moore also abused the State of Delaware’s voucher program, by which charter schools are permitted to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement, and the State of Delaware’s procurement card system, by which the State of Delaware issues credit cards to charter school administrators to purchase necessary school supplies. In addition, Moore stole money from the school’s fundraising account, which consisted of money collected from parents of school students, local sponsors, and an after-school program. Moore also took money from the school’s construction loan account.
Moore used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as retail purchases, home improvement purchases, electronics, auto loan payments, auto services and accessories, federal tax payments, groceries, entertainment, food, gas, travel, gifts and collectibles, shoes, hotels, jewelry, train tickets, and video games.
During this time, the Family Foundations Academy received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges. The maximum penalty for each count is ten years in prison followed by a three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
I would like to know how Moore could settle with the Board of Directors at FFA over stolen funds. If he stole $161k in funds and settled with them for $67k, as per WDEL, that is $94,000 in lost education funding for Delaware kids. That is some serious coin. And Moore only paid back $13k of that settlement amount. But he will face jail time. That is all but a guarantee.
Move over bacon! Here comes something meatier! It looks like we have a charter school “district” coming in Wilmington. How very interesting. Word on the street is Prestige Academy has been invited to become a part of the EastSide Charter “district”. We will now have three charter schools in this “district”: EastSide, Family Foundations Academy, and now Prestige Academy. Add in the very big connections between EastSide and Gateway, and we are seeing a budding school district within already existing school districts.
This is NOT a joke. But questions are rising up faster than Buccini-Pollen apartment buildings in Wilmington! Last month, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy wrote a letter to the Delaware Dept. of Education indicating they would be surrendering their charter at the end of this school year and would not be attempting to renew their charter. They based their decision on low enrollment. So if they wrote this letter and did NOT have their initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting, how can this even happen? Whether they join or not, they still have to go through the charter renewal process and deal with their very low enrollment. But once again, the word on the street is the DOE will let this go through. Even though they haven’t changed anything on the charter renewal part of their website for the 2016-2017 year for Prestige’s renewal. But still, Secretary Godowsky would have to give his assent to the State Board of Education who would have to vote as a majority. I really shouldn’t predict what they are going to do. They have their own minds.
I have a novel idea. Maybe the enrollment would go up if they changed locations. Being across from a men’s prison for an all boys school with a huge African-American population isn’t the wisest idea. It didn’t work out for Marion T. Charter School either (they went down years ago). But it looks like we could have a Wilmington School District in the future, just not the kind any of us expected (actually, Kavips did when the whole priority schools thing went down). I’m sure some will say “You’ve got this all wrong”. We will see what comes out in the wash! How ironic that the charter school lawsuit against Christina would also coincidentally come out at the same time, which all three schools in the EastSide Empire are a part of…