Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

Rodel’s Paul Herdman Made Over $343,000…And Our Children Lose More Education Everyday

This article will disgust you.  It disgusted me when I read their latest tax form, filed in July of this year.  The Rodel Foundation and all their education propaganda.  I have a new take on this.  We need to boycott anything associated with Rodel.  That means the Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and yes, I’m going to go there.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.  Why?  Because after the Budingers, who owned Rodel Inc. back in the day, Tony Allen is listed on the board of Rodel.  Dan Rich, the University of Delaware employee who is involved in all things WEIC, also sits very comfortably on the board of the Vision Coalition.

$343,000 a year.  For one man.  That is twice what Mark Murphy made as Secretary of Education.  It’s $126,000 more than the highest paid State of Delaware employee in education (who just so happens to be enjoying his obsession with the Vision Coalition these days).  How many starting teachers could we get with that?  Ten?  How about we take his salary and give every student in Delaware an extra $100 in funding.  I know, they are a “non-profit” company.  Of course they are.  How could they ever make a profit with just over $900,000 going to four people’s salary?

So who benefited from Rodel’s “expertise” in education on this tax form?

Parthenon Group: $700,000 (listed as consultants Rodel pays to do consulting work)

Aspen Institute: $175,000

Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee $53,600

Delaware Charter Schools Network $30,000

Delaware Public Policy Institute $50,000

First State Military Academy $75,000

Great Oaks Foundation $75,000

Hope Street Group $10,000

Innovative Network For Communities $7,500

Innovative Schools Development Corporation $741,688

Latin American Community Center $15,000

Leadership Delaware Inc. $10,000

Music Associates of Aspen Inc. $30,000

National Public Education Support Fund $10,000

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District $13,451

Sustainable Settings $7,500

Teach For America Inc. $100,300

Teach Plus Inc. $7,500

The Delaware Met $75,000

The Partnership Inc. $7,500

Third Way Foundation $10,000

Vision Network $95,000

The ones in bold are the ones that really stand out for me.  That is an awful lot of money going to Innovative Schools.  But what puzzles me the most is the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District.  Looking back at their prior year tax forms, they have frequently given money to that district or schools within the district.

In terms of hedge fund activity, this tax form does NOT have the Rodel-Pebbles AA Multi-Strategy Hedge Fund, which I wrote in great detail about last year.  In that article, for their Tax Form 990, the amount in the fund was $158,071.  For the other two hedge funds they invest in, Hirtle Multi-Strategy Hedge Funds and Hirtle- Private Equity Funds, those amounts were $2,590,421 and $1,725,911.  A year later, those amounts are $2,710,070 and $1,636,033.  So if they cashed out the Rodel-Pebbles Hedge Fund, it looks like they invested $30,000 more in hedge funds for this tax year.  Like last year, their hedge fund activity is in “off-shore accounts” in the Caribbean or Central America.  For this tax year they invested over $6.9 million in these off-shore accounts, an increase of $2.9 million more than in their tax form filed last year.  Their net assets by the end of the year were $27,700,235 which was an almost $1 million dollar loss compared to the previous year, in which their assets went down $1.45 million compared to the year before.  Yet Dr. Herdman’s salary keeps going up each year because they do a “survey” to see how other similar non-profits pay their CEOs.  This is corporate education reform.  Where traditional public schools lose money each year while the 1% get infinitely richer.  And our state allows this by continuing this charade.

Now when Dr. Paul Herdman first started with The Rodel Foundation of Delaware back at the end of 2004, he was making a little over $168,000 a year with benefits and travel expenses.  Now that has mushroomed to $343,000.  A $175,000 increase.  And this is for their 2013 tax year!  I’m sure it is even more now.

Delaware, this is Rodel.  A company that is a non-profit that invests in off-shore hedge funds and their CEO receives more income than anyone in education in Delaware.  Remember, they sell a product, like any company does.  The product is designed to make them rich.  It’s a business.  They could care less how your individual child is doing.  They care about their bottom line.  So every time you go to the latest annual Vision party, every time you let them take your personal information so you can go to one of their events, or you attend an Imagine Delaware Forum on education that they sponsor, remember it is a big advertisement.  Rodel owns Delaware.  They own the Governor, they own the DOE, they own the Delaware Charter School Network, Innovative Schools, and it looks like the two main people on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

If Rodel really cared about education in Delaware, they would be donating money to the school districts that need funds the most, to help out with classroom sizes.  This is a company that has $27 million in assets.  And it sits there, every year, going through investments and hedge funds and even though it slowly loses a little bit each year, it’s not enough.  I don’t see Rodel donating funds to Red Clay or Christina.  I see a hell of a lot of charter schools, and companies that support them.  And that one school district where a certain Interim Secretary of Education comes from.  Where a soon to be ex-US Secretary of Education visited one of the “most improved” high schools in the state twice which just happens to be in the same district.

When Rodel offers these “grants” to charters, think tanks, and charter friendly organizations, it isn’t out of the kindness of their heart.  It is an investment.  It is saying, if the amount is high enough, we now own you.  Do as we say.  Don’t rock the boat.  Oppose all legislation we don’t like.  We know Rodel and the Delaware Charter Schools Network are two of the biggest lobbyists in Delaware.  It’s not for the kids.  It’s for money.  So Paul Herdman can get an increase in his salary every year.  Don’t get me wrong, he works hard.  Destroying public education doesn’t happen overnight.  It happens over a long period of time, and he has been very proficient at it for over ten years now.

Boycott Rodel.  These are the things I would like to see happen.  DSEA and Delaware PTA get the hell out of anything Rodel/Vision Coalition related.  Tony Allen resigns from the Rodel board.  Dan Rich resigns from Vision.  The Delaware Department of Education immediately ends any contracts with Rodel that are not listed for public viewing.  They end any business relationship with Rodel.  For citizens of Delaware, please do not support this organization.  They have been selling a line of crap for over ten years and it needs to stop.  The only way to do that is to stop listening.  Do not legitimize their money-making agendas.  If they put an ad in the paper or a letter to the editor, write a complaint to the News Journal.  If you are worried about the Delaware Business Roundtable and how that could effect Delaware, don’t worry, Rodel does the books for their Education Committee.

If the leaders of organizations who work with Rodel and the Vision Coalition don’t want to leave, that’s okay.  Elections can change that with certain organizations.  And do not buy for one second that “Personalized Learning” is the wave of the future.  That’s what Rodel wants you to think.  Back in 2006, they predicted state standards and tests designed around those.  They envisioned a future, with the able assistance of then Treasurer of Delaware Jack Markell, where all children would be able to compete with their brethren in China and Japan and India and Singapore.  Millions upon millions of dollars filling the pockets of folks like Dr. Paul Herdman and Fred Sears III.  For what?  Have we learned nothing?

This article is going to tick off a lot of people.  Good.  It wasn’t meant to put a smile on anyone’s face.  It was meant to piss off those who would sacrifice our children’s future so companies like Rodel can live high off the hog.  You know exactly who you are, and the charade has to end.  Either you support public education or you don’t.  There is no middle ground.  Not anymore.

For the average citizen, remember this.  You hold immense power in your hands and voice.  Your hands can write a Refuse The Test letter.  Your voice can tell other parents to do the same.  Paul Herdman was scared out of his mind with the opt-out movement.  He had no idea how much power he does not have over people.  This is why he spoke at the Senate Education Committee meeting against House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation.  He knows that if parents don’t let their kids take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, his empire falls apart.  Very fast.  Let’s do it.  Let’s say screw the CEO and take back education.  Because if you think for one second it is your child’s education, you are dead wrong.  This is Rodel’s education, sold to them with your taxpayer money and the more than willing voice of your Governor.