New Odyssey Financial Abuse Uncovered While Two Brave Women Give Powerful Testimony

The funny thing about facts, my friends, is that despite the attempts of the board, they cannot be interpreted.  They cannot be changed, and they cannot be maligned for they are facts.  And the facts are that this Board violated state laws, DOE rules and regulations and maybe even criminal code laws.

 

So yes, our books are pristine.  Every dollar is accounted for.  The problem is the dollars and where they went.  Where they buried those invoices under what budget lines.  Because it’s there.  And if the State Auditor would do her job we could actually find that out.

Odyssey Charter School is in trouble.  Big trouble.  On the dawn of their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for their formal review this Monday, an article by Delaware Public Media came out showing even more financial abuse going on at the Greek-themed charter school.  Meanwhile, the CSAS initial report came out along with the transcript for their public hearing and they are explosive!  The transcript reveals what has been going on with teachers at the school and what led to the eventual decision to unionize. Continue reading

Delaware DOE Employee Gets Off Easy On Theft Of Education Funds

In yet another pathetic sentencing, a Delaware state employee got off very easy for stealing in what should have been a harsher sentence.  When did our Delaware Department of Justice get so soft? Continue reading

Patrick Miller’s Hat Trick & The Bunting Letter Sent To Indian River Staff After Patrick Miller “Resigned”

Brandywine School District.  Indian River School District.  Indian River Volunteer Fire Company.  What do all three of these have in common?  Patrick Miller.  A man accused of financial fraud in the two districts who is not behind bars.  High crimes and misdemeanors indeed!  But he is a free man.  How is that even possible? Continue reading

Was A Christina Principal/Former Delaware DOE Employee Placed On Leave For Some Type Of Financial Abuse?

In a letter dated to parents on June 2nd, 2017, Christina School District Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa sent a letter to parents advising that Kirk Middle School Principal Brian Curtis was placed on leave.  The letter did not indicate if the leave is a paid leave or not.  In conducting a search for more information, I found a post on Facebook to the Christina School District Facebook page where a parent asked the district if he was fired for embezzlement.

When you go to Christina’s Facebook page, all visitor posts are now gone.  I tried to submit a post asking where they all went and received a message that it would be reviewed.  But the post still shows up on Facebook’s search engine.  I edited the picture just for basic privacy rights of the person who submitted the question although it is public information on Facebook.  The response to the parent post by the administrator of their Facebook page was 10:55am on June 2nd.  The timestamp of the PDF letter sent to parents was 11:53am on June 2nd.

Curtis worked at the Delaware Department of Education for four and a half years in the school turnaround unit (i.e. priority schools) before he was hired to become Principal at Kirk Middle School in 2015.  He replaced outgoing Principal Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District.  Curtis never updated his LinkedIn page with his new position.  I searched for any recent news or events with Brian Curtis in Delaware and found nothing.  While I am sure the district will not release any information pertaining to a pending investigation, this could not come at a worse time in Delaware as the General Assembly is in the final stages of preparing their FY2018 budget which has a current deficit of nearly $400 million dollars.  Many school districts and state agencies are feeling the pinch as budget cuts are expected throughout the state.

In recent years, Delaware school district and charter schools have gone through many audit investigations due to financial abuse of some sort at their schools.  Charter schools Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Delaware Military Academy and the closed Pencader Business School as well as the Indian River School District and Sussex Technical School District have all had reports from that office since 2013.

While working on another article about a situation not related to this one at all, I stumbled across the Facebook post which led me to the announcement about Curtis being placed on leave.  While a question posed by a parent does not give any clear picture of wrongdoing, the fact the school district deleted the ability for anyone to see it on their main district page along with all other visitor posts IS cause for concern.

Will Indian River School District Need A State Bailout?

Indian River has NO monthly financial statements, budgets, nothing showing ANY money whatsoever on their website.  Way to be transparent!  Hard to look for your yearly budgets with no information.  What are you hiding?  How much money did Miller mess with in the finances?  Is the state going to have to bail you guys out?  Why are teachers being told not to plug in anything that isn’t normally plugged in inside the classrooms?

I’m hearing Miller absconded with a ton of money, up to $14-15 million according to some.  Where is the transparency on this issue?  That is some very serious coin.  How can we trust Indian River to safeguard student data in the BRINC empire when the district can’t even safeguard their own money?  Oh wait, I’m sorry, the taxpayers money.  This is going to make any district financial meltdown in the past look like Romper Room.

Why is Bunting making this seem like some ordinary hiccup on the news?  This is the problem in Delaware.  Too many figures in power who think the people don’t need to know the truth.  Too many legislators who think they are the last point of transparency.  Not this time.  Come clean Indian River so we can all see what’s going on.  If the state winds up bailing you guys out we all pay the price for that one.  Better to tell the truth now than face the wrath of the entire state.

The fact that all your financial information is missing does not bode well for this district.  I have to wonder… when this district knew what happened in Brandywine with Patrick Miller, why would they hire a financial guy who basically plea bargained his way out of criminal charges?  Delaware deserves better than this.

Updated, 8:18am:  This is being referred to as Millergate around Sussex County and Indian River School District.  It’s not looking good the district will be able to make payroll going into October.  This is NOT good folks.

 

What Is Wrong With So Many Delaware Charter Schools?

I’ve been racking my brain on this for a long time now.  If it isn’t financial abuse, it’s bad enrollment preferences.  If it isn’t the DOE praising certain charter schools, it is a lack of due process.

I think what it comes down to is arrogance.  We see that in traditional school districts as well, but what makes it so pronounced with the charters?  Charters are smaller.  When they make noise, everyone hears it or points it out.  Nothing gets some Delawareans pissed off more than seeing some charters blatantly flaunting their admissions process.  For others, it is the amount of money being wasted by school leaders and not making it to the classroom.  But when a charter has issues, hearing or seeing the leaders defend problems that are so inherently wrong makes them look rather foolish.

Just about every charter school in Delaware, since I started this blog, had one of the above issues I mentioned since I started this blog back in June of 2014.  Three charters have shut down, with another going down at the end of this year.  When things go down at a charter, we often see the bulk of the parents defending the school as if they can do no wrong.  Is it that they are blind to the facts or is the option of sending their child to a traditional school district so frightening for parents they are willing to overlook these infractions?

There are the true horror stories like Delaware Met and possibly Delaware Design-Lab High School.  Brand new charters that don’t seem to have a clue how to run a school.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, the DOE, with rare exceptions, doesn’t do anything until after that Wednesday in January when the choice window closes.  We find out what they knew all this time, and the DOE gets away with it every single time.

What are we teaching our children?  That it’s okay to send the more fortunate and the more knowledgeable to the “better” schools?  That it doesn’t matter if you go to a school that is 98% African-American?  That if you are “counseled out” of a charter it’s okay to be out of the system for over a month?  Behind all of this is the shadow of standardized test scores.  For all Delaware schools, including charters, this is the measurement over which the DOE’s judgment is severe.  Many think the DOE is too charter friendly, but when there are issues, the DOE comes down on them like white on rice.  Which is good, but had the DOE acted sooner in many of these situations things wouldn’t get as bad.

There are no easy answers or solutions to these issues.  What we need is a culture change when it comes to charters.  In the meantime, the war, yes, the war, continues.  It bubbles over into every aspect of education in our state in one form or another.

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!

Family Foundations Financial Fiasco Timeline

For those just now tuning in to the Family Foundations Academy story based on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts investigation released yesterday, I put together a chronological timeline of everything FFA related.  While the News Journal claims to be “following this story since January”, after their forensic audit was publicly released, myself, Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks and Kilroy’s Delaware were hammering this story out well before them.  Everything you need to know about the FFA story is in here, along with aspects not even touched on by the State Auditor’s inspection.  Kilroy first broke the news about stuff going on there!

12/12/14: Kilroy found it first while going through the DOE website! https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/something-for-delaware-state-representative-debbie-hudson-re-charter-school-transparency-arneduncan-washingtonpost-edude-netde-dedeptofed-destateboarded-usedgov-educationoig-huffingtonpost/

12/12/14: More complaints coming in for FFA’s charter renewal: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/tnj_malbright-more-family-foundations-complaints-sent-to-the-de-doe-charter-school-office-state-board-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-netde-edude-de/

12/12/14: Kilroy finds the numerous attorney fees going out of FFA: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/delaware-charter-schools-are-a-bonanza-for-lawyers-omg-look-at-this/

12/13/14: FFA & DCSN Connections: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/de-charter-school-network-connections-with-family-foundations-academy-disaester-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-tnj_malbright-doverpost-thestatenews-destateboarded-dedeptofed-governormarkell-wsj-th/

12/14/14: Peyton Place & The Satisfaction Officer: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/peyton-place-at-family-foundations-academy-the-satisfaction-officer-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-governormarkell-delawarebats-rodel-netde-edude-delaw/

12/16/14: FFA under investigation by Delaware State Auditor’s office: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/breaking-news-family-foundations-academy-under-financial-investigation-with-state-auditor-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-apl_jax-rceaprez-governormarkell-destateboarded-dedeptofed-tnj_malbright-de/

12/17/14: Sean Moore no longer on board at Delaware Charter School Network: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/family-foundations-acad-head-of-school-sean-moore-no-longer-treasurer-of-delaware-charter-school-network-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-tnj_markell-avi_wa-wboc-w/

12/18/14: FFA’s fate decided at State Board of Education meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/live-from-delaware-state-board-of-education-meeting-charter-school-decisions-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-destateboarded-dedeptofed-delawarebats-netde/

12/19/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the State Board of Education meeting: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/76455-delaware-shuts-one-charter-school-spares-another

12/19/14: FFA under scrutiny by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/family-foundations-academy-potentially-serious-allegations-of-financial-mismanagement-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-delawarebats-netde/

12/21/14: Kilroy ponders on criminal charges for Family Foundations leaders: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/if-allegations-are-substantiated-against-family-foundation-will-their-be-criminal-charges-nope/

12/23/14: FFA Board Meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/family-foundations-academy-board-meeting-tonight-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-netde-edude-edchat-delaware/

12/30/14: The full Auphsite Consulting Family Foundations forensic audit report: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/4423/

12/30/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the Forensic Audit: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/76803-audit-details-financial-impropriety-at-delaware-charter

1/1/15: Kilroy talks about their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/

1/2/15: Plea to parents and teachers at FFA to tell the truth: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/family-foundations-parents-and-teachers-its-time-to-tell-the-truth/

1/3/15: The stories pour in from parents and teachers: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/a-family-foundations-academy-blast-from-the-past-id-love-to-see-them-try-this-now/

1/4/15: What more could FFA do wrong? You would be surprised: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/uh-oh-looks-like-we-got-a-bleeder-here-what-has-family-foundations-academy-done-now/

1/4/15: FFA was looking for new board members, so….: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/both-moore-brewington-out-at-family-foundations-academy-looking-for-new-board-members-should-I/

1/5/15: Avi covers the “on-leave” status of Sean Moore at FFA: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77006-embattled-charter-head-placed-on-leave

1/6/15: The Bizarro World at FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/more-truly-bizarre-family-foundations-academy-stories-surface/

1/8/15: Did something happen at FFA today?: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/what-happened-at-family-foundations-academy-today-reporters-doe-letters-oh-my/

1/11/15: My public comment for FFA’s formal review: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/13/15: FFA leaders fired, big board changes: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/big-changes-at-family-foundations-academy-moore-brewington-terminated-with-cause-board-members-resign/

1/13/15: Avi covers the firing of Moore and Brewington: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77260-major-leadership-shakeup-at-troubled-delaware-charter

1/13/15: Avi covers the EastSide Charter School rescue: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77263-distressed-charter-cleans-house-enlists-help-of-eastside-charter

1/13/15: State Rep. Kim Williams Public Comment for FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/14/15: Details on FFA/East Side agreement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/has-family-foundations-academy-become-eastside-charter-2-sure-looks-like-it/

1/15/15: Secretary Murphy, State Board and East Side Charter School save FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/family-foundations-academy-fate-decided-handed-over-to-eastside-charter-placed-on-formal-review/

1/15/15: Avi covers the State Board meeting as well: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77394-delaware-spares-troubled-charter-school

1/19/15: Unanswered questions about FFA and financial matters: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/family-foundations-academy-still-has-some-big-unanswered-questions/

2/7/15: Moore and Brewington and their future: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/next-stop-for-ex-family-foundations-head-brewington-moore-attorney-generals-office/

2/14/15: Moore and Brewington want their jobs back: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/say-what-sean-moore-and-dr-brewington-want-their-jobs-back-at-family-foundations-academy/

2/15/15: Questions about FFA & East Side arrangement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/big-question-raised-regarding-east-side-charter-family-foundations-academy-arrangement/

3/16/15: Charter School Accountability Committee’s probation recommendation for FFA & new leaders getting snippy: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/eastside-and-family-foundations-overlords-getting-rather-snippy-with-doe-overreaching-a-bit/

3/22/15: Diane Ravitch jumps on the FFA story: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/family-foundations-academy-saved-by-state-board-as-they-get-ravitched/

4/7/15: FFA’s probation letter and news about Tennell Brewington: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/family-foundations-academy-their-conditions-for-probation-news-that-will-make-ja-flip-out/

7/17/15: FFA submits major modification to change locations for both schools: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/family-foundations-major-modification-to-move-buildings-to-reach-academy-plans-to-increase-enrollment/

8/22/15: FFA’s major modification approved by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/family-foundations-major-modification-approved-by-state-board-of-education-potential-conflict-ahead/

9/6/15: Wondering when the State Audit investigation will be completed: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/family-foundations-academy-where-is-the-investigative-audit-are-they-still-on-probation/

9/9/15: FFA off probation status: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/family-foundations-academy-off-probation-status/

Family Foundations Investigation Released By State Auditor, The Damage: $141,000 Verified, $1.2 Million “Unverifiable”

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office released the Family Foundation Academy full inspection report a year after it was revealed their office was investigating them.  The biggest finding: Ex Head of School leaders Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, as well as other employees of the school, racked up $141,000 in personal purchases with over $1.2 million unverifiable whether it was business or pleasure.  The report talks about the settlement agreement Moore and Brewington and the Board of Directors for a little over $85,000.  There is a mountain of abuse and violations in this report!  Even some that occurred well after East Side Charter essentially took over the school at the end of last year.  This is really, really bad.

AOA’s inspection revealed the administration at Family Foundations Academy  (the Academy) seemingly operated in its own universe during the period July 1, 2011 through January 31, 2015.

Updated, 3:45pm: with the press release from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office:

FFA

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!