The Delaware Charter School Network became involved with the firestorm at Thomas Edison Charter School and that can only mean one thing: Kendall Massett is now in charge. The last time she entered the fray like this it resulted in Family Foundations Academy having their board completely gutted when the Eastside Charter School board took over back in January, 2015. I was able to find out a lot more about the school’s “foundation” account and that is the biggest farce of them all! Meanwhile, the school has violated FOIA many times through this and they are about to do the same tomorrow. Continue reading
Before you read this, you absolutely have to read State Rep. Kim Williams breakdown of their last meeting. This is essential!
Okay, welcome back. The Accountability Framework Working Group met last week for their second to last meeting. Their next meeting will be on October 5th at 1:00pm. I put all the notes from their first 11 meetings here and they have since updated the DOE website to include the notes from Meetings #12-14, and Agendas for #14 and #15. Keep in mind the notes were written by the Delaware DOE.
Meeting #12 happened the same day I broke the news about this group and the whole participation rate thing. I had not delved too deep into it at this point, and it would stand to reason the meeting happened around the same time as my article went up that day. The key part from this meeting is this:
…as well as ensuring that schools with significant achievement gaps in ELA and Math proficiency and the four-year graduation rate do not receive the state’s highest rating.
Of particular interest is this part about what is required under ESEA and what constitutes a school getting the highest rating. This will play a huge part later on in this article. This meeting also had the first mention of Regulation 103 which had already been submitted to the Delaware Register of Regulations at this point.
Meeting #13 was held on September 2nd. I don’t know how many members of the AFWG were aware of my articles on this group at this point, but I know for a fact at least three of them were. Nothing was said about participation rate or Regulation 103 at this meeting as per the notes.
Now where things get really interesting, and nobody really knew, was the DOE all of a sudden put out an agenda for the next meeting of the AFWG on September 17th. By state law, if you are putting out an agenda, it has to be done a week ahead of time if it is a public meeting. This agenda was NOT on the DOE website as of 9/14/15 because I looked that day. If you look on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar you can see this listed as a Public Meeting. However, if you right click on the actual PDF created by Jennifer Roussell at the Delaware DOE on 9/16/15 at 8:36am in the morning, the Delaware Department of Education violated FOIA law by not announcing this a week earlier.
The proverbial stuff hit the fan at Meeting #14 on September 17th. This was the same day as the State Board of Education meeting and news of Regulation 103 and its implications for Delaware schools spread like wildfire prior to this meeting.
Note that the group unanimously voted down the participation rate against proficiency. But the AFWG does not have the final say on this. That is the State Board of Education, who had quite a bit of discussion about this along with members of the public at their meeting that day.
But what the AFWG member who spoke at the State Board of Education meeting did not say was this:
The AFWG members present unanimously recommended removing Participation Rate for the Adjusted Proficiency calculation. Further discussion on the accountability consequence for schools missing the 95% target was requested. Initial feedback supported a rule that no school could receive the highest performance rating on DSSF if they missed the 95% threshold.
Since that meeting, I requested from Dr. Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE the exact law, code, or regulation which states participation rate is required to be any part of a state’s accountability system. As well, Schwinn said at the 9/17 State Board of Education meeting she was going to request this from US DOE. To date, NOTHING has been presented. I spent countless hours going through federal laws concerning this and ESEA waiver laws, rules and guidance, and there is absolutely NOTHING in Federal law that states this is a requirement. NOTHING. DOE knows this, but they are stalling. AFWG needs to stop relying on the word of Penny Schwinn and actually research this for themselves. But please keep in mind this is what the DOE wrote in the notes and may not actually be what was discussed. If any member of the AFWG wants to contact me about this, please do so.
Last week, on 9/23/15, the AFWG held their 15th meeting. Again, an agenda was put up, without 7 full days notice. It is one again on the Public Meeting Calendar and this one even says there can be public comment at the meeting. If you do the right-click thing again on this PDF and go to document properties, it was created on 9/17/15. Two public meeting FOIA violations.
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended this meeting as I wrote earlier.
The group will meet again on 10/5/15, but you won’t find it on the DOE website. You have to look in the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar again but at least they got the agenda out more than seven days before the public meeting. Maybe they were thinking if you add up all the days together for the last three meetings that would be sufficient enough to get a total of twenty-one days. But that is some fuzzy math, cause that would only be seventeen days…
This will (for now), be the last meeting of the AFWG. Will you be there? Of course, it’s on a Monday afternoon, during that oh-so-convenient time for working parents and teachers to come. But we can’t interfere with the State Board of Education’s Grotto’s Smarter Balanced party at 4pm. Or the Charter School public hearings beginning at 4pm.
But this has to be the last meeting because it needs to be presented to the Delaware Education Support System group the next day, also during the same hours between 1-4pm. The group that has no agenda and does not take minutes for their meetings. Because it is so important to present it to this clandestine group but not parents in a transparent way…
This whole thing has become the biggest debacle in DOE history. They are breaking the law all over the place. And yes, I have already submitted two more FOIA complaints for their latest public meeting decisions concerning the AFWG for a grand total of seven pending complaints with the Delaware Department of Justice and two with the federal US DOE.
Thanks to “Armpit” for sending this one to me! Apparently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office received a petition from a concerned citizen in the Appoquinimink School District due to an open meeting violation concerning their school board. Superintendent Matthew Burrows contract was invalidated due to the FOIA violations! You can read the legal opinion here but I will give the highlights:
We find that Executive Session and Public Meeting Agendas for the June 2014 Board Meeting violated FOIA and affected substantial public rights. In a similar case, we determined that the school board violated substantial public rights “by deciding who to hire as the new [District] superintendent outside of public view.” Del. Op. Att’y Gen. 02-IB17, 2002 WL 31031224, at *8 (Aug. 6, 2002). In that case, the “specific rights at issue . . . were the rights of students, parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens in the District to be involved in the selection of a new superintendent.” Id. However, we declined to invalidate the school board’s approval of the new superintendent for equitable reasons. See id., at *10.
Similarly, although we find that the Board’s June 2014 Meeting and related agendas violated FOIA, we decline to determine that the approval of the Contract is invalid for violation of the open meeting law.7 The record indicates that after Mr. Weller raised his concerns about the adequacy of the Board’s June 2014 meeting agendas, the Board placed the matter on its November agenda, engaged in a public discussion about the Contract at the November meeting, and voted on the Contract at the November meeting. The Board also completed FOIA training in a public session in November 2014 in order to gain additional understanding of FOIA’s public meetings laws. Therefore, we find that the Board has already taken action to cure the June 2014 violations of the open meetings laws. Under the circumstances, no additional remediation is required.
Even though the matter was fixed by the board, it still happened. What would have happened if Mr. Weller never brought it to the Attorney General’s attention? If I ever meet Mr. Weller I would like to shake his hand for his bravery and determination in this matter. School boards are elected officials, and they need to follow the letter of the law!