Exclusive: Odyssey Parent’s Email To Board About Unethical Board Practices & Conflicts Of Interest

No sooner do I post an article about Odyssey than an email comes in from an Odyssey parent who is fed up with their Board!  While this email has been circulating among Odyssey parents on social media today, this is the first time it has been open to the public like this.  The parent gave me full permission to post this and considers it a public document! Continue reading

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Teachers & Parents Are NOT Happy With Odyssey’s Lack Of Transparency With New Leadership

Events at Odyssey Charter School have been bubbling for some time now but they are coming to a boil in recent weeks.  When the Odyssey Board of Directors chose not to renew Headmaster Nick Manolakos’ contract, they put forth Riccardo Stoeckicht as their new “Campus Operations Officer” and Denise Parks as their Head of School.  Between these two hirings, the school is looking at over $300,000.00 for these two positions alone.  But the shenanigans don’t stop there. Continue reading

Former Employee Alleges Delaware DOE Violated FOIA, Delaware AG Opinion Agrees

Atnre Alleyne, a former employee of the Delaware Department of Education and the current head of DelawareCAN, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOE back in March.  He was not satisfied with their response and filed a FOIA complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice.  The Delaware DOJ issued their opinion on the complaint on May 4th and found the Delaware DOE did violate FOIA. Continue reading

Carney & Bunting Announce Teacher Advisory Council But Violate FOIA With First Meeting Today

**UPDATED**, 4:36pm: I was informed by the Governor’s Office this is a public meeting.  With that being said, they are in open violation of Delaware law.

It wouldn’t be Delaware without yet another council.  But this one takes the cake because no sooner does Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting announce this but the first meeting is today.  To assume this decision was made today would be foolhardy because the teachers would have been given advance notice to attend this meeting.  I don’t know when the teachers were given their notice, but I can tell you it did not appear on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar until 3/23.  Today is 3/27.  Delaware FOIA law states all public notices of meetings must be up seven days prior to that public meeting.  I don’t look at that calendar every day.  The last time I looked at it was on 3/22 and I did not see it on there.

The below picture is from the posted agenda:

This is my issue with this.  There is a reason we have that seven-day law.  Not a rule, a law.  Every other state agency who had meetings or committee meetings postponed due to last week’s snowstorm reposted agendas.  But four days, for something brand new, is not acceptable.  The DOE and Carney’s Office could have rescheduled this first meeting.  But no, they announce it the day of with little to no disregard they are violating state law.  Had I known this was an actual public meeting (which was not announced in the DOE’s below press release), I would have gone to it.  But instead, I see an email from the Governor’s Office stating it is.

What was the criteria for the selection of teachers?  Does DSEA know about this?  While I always feel teachers having a louder voice is important, I do NOT like the fact this was just announced today (or on Friday if you want to be technical).  And where is the Parent Advisory Council?  How come parents are always left out of important education policy decisions?  I guess our voices don’t matter as much.  We just have to deal with the results of these education policy decisions…

I would file a FOIA complaint about this meeting with no agenda just being announced today, but it is a backdoor meeting and not open to the public.  FOIA only applies to public meetings.  Which Bunting and Carney don’t seem to want… 

Maybe I should file a FOIA complaint.  Since the meeting is going on, let’s see, NOW.

Council will gather feedback from educators statewide, increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, announced on Tuesday the establishment of a new Teachers Advisory Council to gather the feedback of educators from across the state.

Secretary Bunting invited two teachers from each of the state’s 19 school districts and six charter school educators to join the group, which will facilitate communication, contribute to solutions, and help increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions. The group will meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues affecting teachers.

“Educators work on the front lines helping prepare Delaware’s children for the future,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to transforming the Department into a true support agency to help schools and educators better serve their students. This new advisory council will help ensure that we are listening to educators every step of the way as we make policy decisions that affect the classroom. Thank you to the educators who are participating, and Dr. Bunting and our team at the Department of Education for convening this group.”

“This is an opportunity for me to hear directly from those who work closest with our children and often feel the most direct effects of our policy decisions,” said Secretary Bunting.

Teachers participating on the new advisory council were recommended by their superintendents or the Delaware Charter School Network for the voluntary role. Secretary Bunting has asked each to share his or her personal feelings as an individual rather than serve as a representative of a district or charter school’s position on an issue.

This group is in addition to the Teacher of the Year Advisory Council, which Secretary Bunting also meets with bi-monthly.

 

Educators participating in the new advisory council include:
  • Kristyn Bradford of Lake Forest North Elementary in Lake Forest School District
  • Seth Buford of Milford High School in Milford School District
    Shorel Clark of Brittingham Elementary School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Marisa Clarke of Central Elementary in Seaford School District
  • Guy Cooper of Providence Creek Academy charter school
  • Luke Crossan of Waters Middle School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Todd Cushman of Delmar Middle School in Delmar School District
  • Chelsea Darczuk of East Side Charter School
  • Robert Edmondson of Seaford Middle School in Seaford School District
  • Catherine (Katy) Evans of Sunnyside Elementary School in the Smyrna School District
  • Christina Gallo of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest School District
  • Shelby Gordon of Bunker Hill Elementary School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Emily Green of Caesar Rodney High School in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Robert Harrod of Cape Henlopen High School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Matt Hoopes of Concord High School in Brandywine School District
  • Shelley Hovanec of Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Woodbridge School District
  • Michelle Howard of Delmar High School in Delmar School District
  • Lesley Louder of Dover High School in Capital School District
  • Tina Lykens of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Jennifer MacDonald of Smyrna High School in Smyrna School District
  • Nathalie Melvin of South Dover Elementary School in Capital School District
  • Phyllis Mobley of Harlan Elementary School in Brandywine School District
  • Elaine Norris of Mispillion Elementary School in Milford School District
  • Petra Palmer of Delcastle High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Michael Paoli of Hodgson High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Sarah Polaski of Christiana Middle School Academy in Christina School District
  • Moraima Reardon of Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge School District
  • Lisa Richardson of Millsboro Middle School in Indian River School District
  • Matthew Sabol of William Penn High School in Colonial School District
  • Dara Savage of Early College High School charter school
  • Cameron Sweeney of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Crystal Thawley of Sussex Technical High School in Sussex Technical School District
  • Elizabeth Van Aulen of Wilson Elementary School in Christina School District
  • Anthony Varrato of Sussex Technical High School of Sussex Technical School District
  • Kim Weber of Welch Elementary in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Leigh Weldin of Conrad School of Sciences in Red Clay Consolidated School District
  • Karen Willey of Sussex Academy charter school
  • Jill Young of Lord Baltimore Elementary in Indian River School District
  • Stacie Zdrojewski of Red Clay Consolidated School District Office

The Teacher Advisory Council will meet on Tuesday, March 27th from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Collette Education Resource Center Conference Room, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover.

Delaware Public Education Salaries Over $100,000: Rankings, Student Cost, Ratios, $$$ Totals, & Synopsis

After weeks of work, all of the Delaware Public Education salaries over $100,000 have been posted with a few exceptions.  Those are four charter schools who either did not respond or will in the next couple of days.  But there is more than enough data to make some sense out of all this.  Many asked why I was posting these.  There were several reasons: requests, comparisons, money tracking, and general curiosity.  But the main reason was to see if I could answer the age-old question- “Are there too many administrators?”  Finally, I am prepared to answer that. Continue reading

New Castle County Vo-Tech Salaries Over $100,000

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District has a lot of very high-priced administrators in their district.  Their leader, Dr. Victoria Gehrt, is the second highest paid Superintendent in the state.  Their enrollment has gone up in the past four years by over 168 students but they have eight less administrators making over $100,000.  What is very interesting with them is their Assistant Principals seem to begin in the $120,000 range, which is significantly higher than the rest of the state.  All of their Principals are in the $140,000 range.  This is what happens when the General Assembly approves a line-by-line budget as they do with all the vocational districts in Delaware.  I do get that all of their schools are high schools and those usually require Assistant Principals.  It just seems way out of proportion when compared to other districts.  Of note is the fact they do not appear to have an Assistant Superintendent so perhaps that is a wash. Continue reading

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: Freire, Las Americas ASPIRA, Positive Outcomes, and Thomas Edison

Three more charter schools.  Two in New Castle County, one in Kent.  One centers around Spanish language skills.  Another is a special education theme.  One originally began with a theme of zero tolerance with school discipline but changed its tune.  One had a ruckus last fall when their school leader was placed on leave because he wanted more pay for teachers.  Continue reading

Polytech and Sussex Tech Salaries Over $100,000

Delaware has three vocational districts, one for each county.  For this post, I’m combining Polytech (Kent) and Sussex Tech (Sussex).  Both have fixed enrollments.  In fact, Sussex Tech got in trouble a few years ago for going over that fixed amount of students.  The key difference in funding between the vo-techs and the districts and charters is the Delaware General Assembly sets their budget in line-by-line items in their annual budget.  As well, their boards are appointed by the Governor of Delaware.  Their salaries can be higher than the districts around them in certain areas.  And what is up with Sussex Tech’s former Superintendent still making the big bucks?  Isn’t he former?  Oh yeah, he’s been on paid leave since last June because of inappropriate land deals down there according to the Cape Gazette.  Do these two schools really need this many administrators? Continue reading

Woodbridge School District Salaries Over $100,000

The last of the traditional school district, Woodbridge School District is another one of the “cross-county” districts.  They are a growing district.  They also have a Superintendent with a name that sounds like a movie star: Heath Chasanov.  I’ve written a billion of these salary posts so I feel I ‘m allowed a bit of humor as I approach the finish line. But I digress.  Woodbridge is also home to someone I admire, Michele Marinucci.  The district’s special education coordinator, along with State Rep. Kim Williams, got the Special Education Strategic Plan formed into a cohesive committee that is doing great things for special education in Delaware.  Chasanov has been commended by the Delaware Dept. of Education for the district’s growth on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Not my cup of tea, but it keeps them in the spotlight. Continue reading

Smyrna School District Salaries Over $100,000

Smyrna and Clayton are very tight-knit communities.  Many in the Smyrna area will tell you the Smyrna School District runs the town.  Whether that is true or not, one thing is true: Superintendent Patrik Williams certainly runs his schools!  By keeping administrative costs down, he runs a tight ship.  While Smyrna is not the fastest growing area in the state, it is certainly growing.  Smyrna’s biggest competition is local charter schools Providence Creek Academy and First State Military Academy, both in Clayton.  The district has grown modestly by about 200 students in the past four years.  Last year, former Superintendent Deborah Wicks retired.  The one thing about Smyrna that troubles me to no end is their very high expulsion rates.  They are the highest in the state.  Last year they had 30 expulsions.  To me, that is zero tolerance.  Something we should be getting away from.  It is rumored Smyrna does this so they can pay for pre-paid spots at Parkway Academy.  While this hasn’t been made official, it makes sense in a bizarre way.  The State Board of Education sees more expulsion appeals come from Smyrna over any other district or charter school.  There is a reason for that.  Williams is a pretty funny guy once you get to know him. Continue reading

Seaford School District Salaries Over $100,000

The Seaford School District lies on the western edge of Sussex County.  The district hovers around the just below 3,500 mark most of the time.  Even though their enrollment is the same, they have two more administrators making over $100,000 than they did four years ago.  Like their neighbor to the south, Laurel, they have a high percentage of low-income students and English Language learners.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission brought up both of these districts many times in their reports on Delaware public schools.  Seaford reminds me of the school district I grew up in with its make-up four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.  But that’s where the similarities end.  My school district was about 3/5ths the size of Seaford.  Which means they have a lot of kids in their buildings.  Continue reading

Red Clay Consolidated School District Salaries Over $100,000

Red Clay Consolidated School District has become a cash cow.

I thought I had a general idea of my overall theory of school administrators in Delaware.  Red Clay was the last to respond to my FOIA request with their numbers.  I sat for a good ten minutes just staring at what they sent me.  While Christina and Red Clay have the exact same amount of administrators, Christina has more schools AND holds statewide programs like the Delaware Autism Program.  Both have 93 administrators.  But in reviewing Red Clay’s, along with some of the titles, I was utterly shocked.  They have individual supervisors for each core subject, personnel specialists, and program coordinators. Continue reading

Milford School District Salaries Over $100,000

The Milford School District is one of the few districts in Delaware that lies in two different counties.  For Milford, both Kent and Sussex County have parts of the district.  As a result, their tax pool is different.  A couple of years ago, Milford, like many other districts, had to raise their tuition tax.  This is a portion of property taxes the public does not get a vote on.  The money is for special education costs.  Milford raised their tuition tax considerably and the public got sticker shock when they opened their tax bill.  As a result, it forced the district to become very frugal with their spending.  The district has the second lowest amount of administrators over $100,000 based on their student count.  New Superintendent Kevin Dickerson inherited the previous Superintendent’s mess but is doing a decent job of putting the district back on solid ground.  The district has 104 less students than they had four years ago and three less administrators making over $100,000. Continue reading

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: MOT, Newark Charter, Odyssey, Providence Creek, & Sussex Academy

These five charter schools are very distinctive in one area: they all have low populations of special education students compared to their surrounding districts.  But those aren’t the only comparisons among them.  Two of them have school leaders that received salary bumps over $50,000 and then resigned or are set to retire.  Pension law in Delaware sets your pension based on your three highest years of salary.  Intentional?  You be the judge.

These five charters range from near the top of Delaware in New Castle County all the way to the heart of Sussex County with one right near the middle in Kent.  All of these charters have significant student enrollment and have taken many students from their surrounding school districts.  They are also in very populous, and in some cases, fast growing areas of the state.

Continue reading

Laurel School District Salaries Over $100,000

One of the southernmost districts in Delaware, Laurel school district’s population is increasing at a modest rate.  But it also has a very large percentage of low-income students.  As well, they are dealing with a fast growing population of English Language learners.  Many districts in western Sussex county face the same issue with property assessments bearing a large burden on local taxpayers.  The way the system was set up decades ago has winners and losers.  For Laurel property owners, they lose big.  As a result, the district is forced to tighten their money belt the same time their population is growing.  Four years ago, only the Superintendent made over $100,000, now there are five. Continue reading

Lake Forest School District Salaries Over $100,000

Lake Forest School District is in the northern part of Sussex County.  Student enrollment hovers around the 3,800 mark each year.  New Superintendent Brenda Wynder faces many of the same challenges other districts face in Sussex based on property assessments being among the lowest in Delaware.  As a result, the district only has 12 administrators making over $100,000.  Continue reading

Indian River School District Salaries Over $100,000

Indian River School District, located in central Sussex County, has the least amount of administrators per student out of all the school districts in Delaware.  The district has 1,000 more students than they did four years ago.  With a growing population and over 10,400 students in the district, Indian River had to cut back on administrators back in the Fall of 2016 to avoid the state having to bail them out during a financial crisis.  Their former leader, Susan Bunting,  is now the Delaware Secretary of Education.  Mark Steele leads the district now and has to deal with doing more with less.  Compared to similar districts with student enrollment at that size, such as Appoquinimink and Brandywine, Indian River runs a tight ship these days.  Indian River has a large number of English Language learners in the district and with a current lack of extra funding for those students, it can be tough.  The district faced an investigative audit by the State Auditor’s Office at the same time they tried to pass a referendum.  While the referendum did eventually pass, it caused the district to get their finances together fast!

Continue reading

Delmar School District Salaries Over $100,000

The smallest school district in Delaware!  Delmar is a very interesting district because it shares schools with another state, Maryland.  As a result, students spend their school years in two states.  I’ve never understood how or why the thing went down like it did.  As a result, they run a tight ship and don’t go hog-wild on administrators.  There are only three administrators making over $100,000 which is the same as four years ago.  Their enrollment ebbs and flows around the 1,300 mark year after year.  The Delaware side of the district has the middle school and high school while Maryland has the elementary schools. Continue reading

Colonial School District Salaries Over $100,000

I underestimated Colonial School District for years.  I always thought they were just kind of there and they were off my radar.  I didn’t write much about them.  Under the leadership of Superintendent Dusty Blakey, Colonial is changing before our very eyes.  How and why is something I plan on writing much more about in the future.  Colonial struggles to hit that 10,000 student mark.  They face the same thing other districts up there do as they are surrounded by charter schools.  Which baffles me why Blakey would push for the district to be an authorizer of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  But I digress.  Colonial’s board is in for a massive shake-up in the upcoming school board election so it will be interesting to see where this district goes in the future.  Blakey is everywhere these days, attending meetings in Dover all the time and pushing for public/private partnerships.  But a growing discontent among teachers in his district may force Blakey to take a second look at his big push for more Relay Graduate School teachers.  The district does have 6 less administrators making $100,000 and over than they did 4 years ago.  Continue reading

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: DAPSS, DE Military Academy, Early College High, First State Military, & First State Montessori

In the next round of Delaware charter schools that have salaries over $100,000, we have an eclectic mix that include two Kent County schools and three New Castle county.  Two are military schools, one has a pseudo-religious theme, one is a first responder school, and the other has a unique partnership with Delaware State University.  In my eyes, if you are going to have a charter school, make it different from the schools around you.  And these charters certainly fit the bill!  Two of them, as you can see by their demographics, are on my radar of what I view as skewed special populations in some areas.  One of them, however, could disappear by the end of June if they don’t get their student enrollment up very soon!  Delaware Military Academy is authorized by Red Clay Consolidated School District.  ECHS and the two FSMAs opened up after the News Journal came out with their salary article in 2014. Continue reading