What? Who in the world is Herbert Sheldon? Who is the Board? While you may not know this name right now unless you are very involved in Delaware education, you soon will. Why? Continue reading “18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: Herbert Sheldon & The Board”
This is a definite. It IS going to happen. A Delaware charter school will be going under formal review, most likely in 2018. Why? A multitude of reasons. While I’m not ready to reveal which one at this point in time, you will know it when you see it. You may think you know which one, but you could be wrong.
There haven’t been any formal reviews since the 2015-2016 school year when both Delaware MET and Delaware STEM Academy went under the Delaware DOE knife. Neither came out alive when it was all said and done. Since then, the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE has come under new leadership with Denise Stouffer. From what I understand, there are circumstances going on at this charter school that can no longer be ignored. Will this charter school come out alive? Smart money says nope unless something radical changes very soon.
Put your guessing caps on.
In 2016, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a major modification request to lower their enrollment. This year, they are supposed to be at 475 students based on that approval. Charter schools have to be at 80% enrollment to be financially viable. That number would be 380 for Delaware Design-Lab High School this year. They are below 300 students according to sources. Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting recommend formal review for the struggling charter school?
The dangling carrot for Design-Lab is their $10 million prize from XQ. The school is currently interviewing positions for their three deans. But those funds can only be used for very specific purposes. It is not meant for salary increases for teachers. But according to an anonymous source, the Interim Head of School (Rebecca Collins) is promising teachers increases. How can the school afford this with their low enrollment? Many teachers are fearing for their jobs due to the school’s low enrollment. Since the Board of Directors ousted Dr. Joseph Mock a couple of weeks ago, a wave of parents have pulled their kids out. Their enrollment tally was due to the Delaware Department of Education on Friday because of the annual September 30th enrollment count.
Historically, the Delaware State Board of Education has put charters on formal review for low enrollment because below 80% charters are not financially viable. Many charters (including Design-Lab) faced this review in 2015. They all squeaked by with higher enrollment by the time the State Board voted that July.
For a charter like Design-Lab, they had their enrollment lowered after that and still can’t get anywhere close to their approved numbers. Many parents don’t seem to be wowed by the XQ award. Three different leaders have been in charge in the past nine months with another new one coming on. I did find out Rebecca Collins did step down from the board to take the interim leader role and plans to go back on the board once the new leader is in place. But Joseph Mock was definitely fired from his position.
At the Delaware DOE, charters are overseen by the Charter School Office. Since Denise Stouffer replaced Jennifer Nagourney in July, 2016, no charter schools have been placed on formal review. Will Delaware Design-Lab High School be the first?
Two Delaware charter schools are in violation of Delaware state law. The Delaware Department of Education is not putting them under formal review as they did two years ago when a few charter schools did not have 80% of their student enrollment for the next school year by April 1st of that calendar year. Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Delaware Design-Lab High School are under the 80% enrollment. Why no formal review? The Delaware State Code, under Title 14, is very clear about this type of situation:
(c)(1) On or before April 1 of each school year, a charter school shall have enrolled, at a minimum, 80% of its total authorized number of students, and the administrator of each charter school shall, pursuant to the requirements below, provide a written certification of that enrollment to the Department of Education and to the superintendent of each public school district in which 1 or more of the charter school’s students reside.
So what gives? The answer can be found in the State Board of Education agenda for their meeting today. The Charter School Office gives a monthly presentation to the State Board on all matters surrounding charter schools.
The law is the law. If they did the same to other charter schools, why are these two not going under the same scrutiny with their enrollment numbers? Is that fair to the charters that had to go through the formal review process two years ago? DAPSS numbers have been down for years. Had they not submitted a modification last year to decrease their enrollment numbers (which passed), they would have gone under formal review last year. Delaware Design-Lab was one of the schools under formal review two years ago for low enrollment numbers. Fair is fair, no matter what. While these numbers are not a train-wreck, they are in violation of what our legislators passed and was written into the state code.
The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter for Academy of Dover. This will give the school a period of five years, as every established Delaware charter gets, until their next renewal. But there were some concerns from the State Board of Education.
The topic of Academy of Dover’s enrollment was the talking point for the State Board in discussing their charter renewal. Their numbers, as I reported a couple of months ago, have been declining. If those numbers don’t start increasing, they could face the unfortunate prospect of dipping below the state required 80% of their enrollment. By state law, all charters must be at 80% of their approved enrollment by April 1st for the next school year. If a Delaware charter does not meet their numbers, they are placed under formal review with the Delaware State Board of Education. That process is somewhat similar to the charter renewal process but focuses more on the subject that places them under that review. But it is still a daunting task.
For now, I’m sure Academy of Dover is celebrating their renewal but with a bit of apprehension. As Capital expands their programming, which is the main feeder pattern for Academy of Dover, the charter school will have to step up their game to compete with Capital and Campus Community School, their main charter school competition in Dover. Time will tell!
The Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee had their final meeting with the Delaware STEM Academy on June 2nd. The report came out tonight. Prognosis: Don’t open the charter school! The main reason for their formal review was very low enrollment numbers. How low? They had 105 students enrolled when they went on formal review a month and a half ago. In the 45 days since… a whopping 124 according to the below report. Their charter calls for 250 students. They had to meet 80% of that. They are a bit under 50%.
I think the time has come to say we are getting “chartered out” in Delaware. This isn’t to say they aren’t popular and are growing. But new charters? Not so much. Out of the more recent charter school openings, I would have to say Great Oaks and First State Military School are doing well. Delaware Design-Lab is going through some growing pains. Delaware Met got the heave-ho before they could start a third marking period. Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall was going to move to Dover, but then backed out of that so they would need to reapply if they ever figure out what they are doing. And now Delaware STEM Academy. On top of Pencader, Moyer, and Reach Academy for Girls closing. And Delaware College Prep will close it’s doors at the end of this month. While this isn’t related at all, I did notice the State Board has not approved any new charters in Delaware since I started blogging just about two years ago…
The State Board of Education bit off more than they could chew when they approved all the new charter schools in 2013 and 2014. We are seeing what happens when there are too many charter schools, especially in upper New Castle County. As local districts beef up their programs, there are only so many students that can be choiced out of a school district. And after Delaware Met, parents up there have to a be a bit cautious. I am glad to see the Charter School Accountability Committee asking the right questions. These are things we need to see from the State Board of Education when they vote on new charters.
The final report from the Charter School Accountability Committee is below. Delaware STEM Academy will have their last public hearing tomorrow night. Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will make his recommendation to the State Board of Education at the June 16th meeting. At that point, the State Board of Education will vote to revoke the school’s charter or let them open. My gut says revocation. The enrollment is just too low and everything in the below report doesn’t leave much room for error…
The Delaware State Board of Education put the Delaware STEM Academy on formal review at their April meeting for low enrollment and financial viability. At their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting on May 10th, the committee said the school was out of compliance in every single area in their formal review.
The main area of concern which prompted the school to ask for a formal review (yes, they asked because the DOE was about to do it anyways) is due to low enrollment. And it is very low. Their approved charter calls for 250 students. By April 1st prior to the next school year, all Delaware charters must have 80% of their approved enrollment. Delaware STEM Academy needed 200 enrolled students. Applications and pending decisions don’t count. They must be enrolled. As of April 15th, the school had 91 enrolled students. As of May 10th, they had 113. They aren’t even close to 80% with their current 45.2%. And we are approaching the end of May.
In a cover letter sent to the Charter School Office requesting their formal review from 4/15, their Board President, Ted Williams, informs the Delaware DOE they have entered into a contract with Innovative Schools. But in the initial report from the 5/10 meeting, we see something very different:
Ms. Field Rogers asked the school whether it has a final contract with Innovative Schools. Mr. B. Taylor stated that the contract has been approved by the board but it is not yet signed.
While this may be seen as being picky on my part, “entering into a contract” would imply the contract was signed. In the DOE’s eyes, a signed contract could be helpful in determining their decision in the school’s favor. It would show the school has support in place to help put the foundations together by the time the school opens. But implying a month earlier there is a signed contract only to find out there is no signed contract during their CSAC meeting probably wasn’t a wise choice from Delaware STEM Academy.
One part of the below report which I found to be a bit arrogant was this:
Ms. Field Rogers asked the school whether the grant funds would be returned if the school does not open. Mr. B. Taylor agreed that the funds would be returned to the funders. Mr. Williams added the private donations would not be returned.
This probably isn’t the best idea either unless it was explicitly told to those donating money it wouldn’t be returned in the event the school doesn’t open. It may cause others to think twice before donating to charters before they even open.
This is the part I don’t get though. The school wanted 250 students as their approved enrollment for their first year with students in 9th and 10th grade. Here we are, over two years since the school was approved, and the DOE is allowing the school to submit a budget scenario where they have 105 students. Is this even allowable as per Title 14 of Delaware code? It is, if that is what the school applied for.
…and enrollment of no less than 200 students at full enrollment and no less than 100 students during the first 2 years of operation…
The school didn’t submit a modification request to change their enrollment numbers. This charter school was approved back in April of 2014. They already got a one year extension from Mark Murphy. Delaware Design-Lab High School faced this scenario last year, but their enrollment numbers weren’t at the danger levels Delaware STEM Academy is at. You can only use that get-out-of-jail-free card once in Delaware. Here we are over two years later and they still aren’t even close to being ready to open. Granted, between Delaware Met’s closure this year and what I dubbed Wilmingtonitis yesterday with an overabundance of charter schools, it is obvious we are way past the saturation point in Northern New Castle County for charter schools. This is not looking good…
The outlook for Prestige Academy is not good in my opinion. Like I just posted in the Academy of Dover charter renewal article, one of the biggest factors going against the school is the state assessment which is extremely dangerous to any public school in Delaware. But the biggest danger this school faces is a case of Wilmingtonitis. There are just too many charter schools in Wilmington and Prestige faces serious enrollment issues.
Despite their recent modification, Prestige still faces enrollment issues. All Delaware charter schools are required to meet 80% of their enrollment by April 1st before the next academic year begins. The school was placed on formal review along with two other Delaware charter schools last year. They barely got their enrollment up by the time they were put on probation as recommended by then Secretary of Education Murphy and passed by the State Board of Education. According to the Charter School update presented to the State Board of Education in April, Prestige Academy was at 76% of their enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year as of April 19th, with 182 students enrolled based on their approved charter enrollment of 240 students, thus putting them ten students shy of meeting the mark.
The most startling part from the Delaware Department of Education charter renewal report is the following:
Should Prestige Academy Charter School not make a deposit of funds sufficient to cover the school’s end of year expenditures in May, the Department of Education may take measures to freeze the school’s spending and establish payroll reserves.
That is NOT a good place for any school to be in. It means there are very serious concerns about their financial viability. In the below response to the DOE charter renewal report, the school does not even address their enrollment and financial issues. That is not a good start to what will be a long seven months until the State Board of Education issues its final recommendation about Prestige Academy’s charter renewal on December 15th of this year. With that being said, can Wilmington take yet another charter school closing down and the instability this causes for the students who have to transition to another school? With no less than four charter schools closing down in upper New Castle County in the past three years (Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, and Delaware Met), most of these schools serviced high populations of low-income and minority students. While they obviously didn’t get a lot of things right, it still contributed to some of the current problems we are seeing in Wilmington education.
Another Delaware charter school is getting the formal review recommendation at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow. Delaware STEM Academy did not meet their 80% enrollment numbers required under state law and their own charter.
I’ve seen this happen before with a few of the other new charters before they opened. They don’t meet the enrollment numbers by April 1st, but they will probably meet them by the time this comes up for State Board action, most likely June the way these things go. It happened last year with Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School of Wilmington. Without knowing what their current enrollment numbers are, it would be hard to say what their situation is though. The simple fact is this: we have too many charters in upper New Castle County. The State Board should have considered this when they had their charter approval party two years ago this month. This is what happens when you have too many schools and too many seats in those schools. With some of the problems the newer charters had this year, such as Delaware Met closing mid-year and Delaware Design-Lab High School, Freire, and First State Military Academy experiencing opening struggles, I can picture many parents reluctance to send their kids to an unknown and unproven charter school.
The Academy of Dover is not listed as a 501c3 corporation with the Internal Revenue Service. The Academy of Dover’s charter, which firmly states they are a 501c3 non-profit corporation, is not real. The Delaware Department of Education put the charter school under formal review last year. This was their fourth formal review in 12 years. This did not come up at all during that process. As well, their auditor, Barbacane, Thornton, & Company LLP, wrote about this in the last three years of audits they did for the school.
For the past three years, their auditor made note of this in their yearly audit of the school. Each year provides a link to the full audit:
And yet, for all three years, it states the exact same thing. Ironically, the link for their 2012 audit, which may have shed some light on this situation, comes up as a blank pdf file.
How has this never been publicly disclosed until now? Actually, it was disclosed a few years ago but it was buried in a comment section on Kilroy’s Delaware. It was during July of 2013, which as any blogger can tell you isn’t exactly a big audience at that time of the year. Especially an education blog! But a commenter wrote exactly what I am telling you now but no one picked up the baton and ran with it.
But this tells me this information has been out there for a while now. I would have a very hard time believing nobody at the Delaware DOE knew this. I’m sure they read the annual audits. But the fact these audits say the exact same thing three years in a row is astonishing. With the school involved in a $2 million dollar lawsuit as well as former Head of School Noel Rodriguez’ personal theft of school funds, how does this not come up at all? Who is reading these audits at the DOE?
The oversight for Delaware DOE authorized charters falls on the DOE. It was right in front of them the whole time and I have never seen it publicly questioned. It never came up in their formal review meetings last spring. I know this because I attended all the meetings. Transparency and this school have never been the best of friends. But this… the DOE needs to act. Their 501c3 status was revoked over four years ago. They have been operating in the dark for over four years. Granted, they could be trying to work things out with the IRS. But if they aren’t a 501c3, even though they are still listed as such with the Delaware Department of Corporations…
And if anyone is wondering why charters need more oversight, this is exactly why. Avi at Newsworks wrote an excellent article today about more charters under investigation in Delaware, including ones that were already under past investigations. I’m just going to come right out and say Senate Bill 171 would give us more of what we have: fraud, lies, and auditors copying and pasting the same information year after year. House Bill 186 would allow information, like what I am writing now, the ability to be seen. Who knows what other skeletons are buried out there in Delaware charters?
One last thought…charter schools are required by the State of Delaware, in Title 14, paragraph 509, that they must have their IRS Tax Form 990 on their website. Academy of Dover has not had this on their website since at least 2008 since the IRS said they hadn’t posted a return the last three years in 2011. So we have a law and nobody is making sure this even happens? Hello Jack Markell… this is transparency calling… your DOE has a lot of explaining to do. But let’s get Academy of Dover taken care of first. They have been out of compliance with their approved charter for over four years. It’s time the DOE and the non-elected State Board of Education make a real decision instead of “probation” four times…
Very interesting! The Delaware Met is having a “special” board meeting tonight. Oddly enough, their initial agenda had an action item entitled “Discussion on Halting the Closure of the School”. Now that action item is gone from the agenda. For a board that meets so often in “special” board meetings, they sure don’t take the time to update their board minutes! And having NO board meeting in November, in the middle of their formal review, has to be the stupidest idea I have ever seen in my life! Unless they were counting their formal review meetings and public hearings with the Charter School Accountability Committee as board meetings…
Here is their updated agenda which does not reflect what was on the original:
All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours! The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep. The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.
If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met. For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record. Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states. Most of them are “mom and pop” charters. Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.
The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working. Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers. I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores. The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well. This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices. We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes. So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students. We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.
And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open. Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use. Their schools are still open. Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft. But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.
Last Monday, December 7th, the Delaware Met had their final formal review public hearing. Numerous students spoke out in support of the school, along with teachers, board members, staff, and parents. Upon reading the transcript, I could not find one negative comment about the school. Every single speaker, and there were many, wanted the school to stay open. Many acknowledged the issues but said those situations are getting better. Do you think the Delaware Met should close or stay open?
The public comment period ending at 11:59pm last evening. To read through the entire 82 page transcript from the public hearing, please read below:
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/
I knew things were bad at Delaware Met. I knew things I was unable to confirm officially. But the reality, and other things I didn’t know about…
Below are just a few of the things said during Delaware Met’s final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee on 12/1/15. This is a must-read! If you ever want to open a school, I would highly recommend doing the opposite of what Delaware Met did, and you should do great! Below these quotes is the full meeting notes.
Ms. Ogden also noted that the school was not prepared for the unannounced monitoring visit, as there were active files on the table and a flash drive was lost in the first room the DDOE staff monitored. She also added that, during the DDOE monitoring visit, an event occurred which set off the fire alarm and resulted in evacuation from the building and no access to the special education resource room on the second floor where the active special education files were stored. Ms. Ogden stated that “the second floor was condemned.”
She added that the lessons plans are for middle school, more specifically early middle school, although The Delaware Met is a high school.
Mr. Blowman commented that the School Leader should be able to go out on maternity leave without the school falling apart. He noted that these issues point to massive weaknesses in the school’s organizational model.
Ms. Nagourney requested clarification whether the Board took action during meetings that were not publicly noticed.
Ms. Massett said that wanted the record to reflect that the school did not reach out to the charter community for assistance.
She specifically noted that the list stated that a bullet was found in one of the classrooms and asked the school why it did not contact the police in that instance.
She indicated that she was fearful about safety in the school when reading about BB guns and tasers.
However, she expressed disappointment that the school listed two calls for severe student disruption despite seven different instances leading to nine arrests being listed in the information provided by WPD.
She identified several incidents, including a student’s hair being set on fire, an assault, weapons being brought to the school, near riots, and threats toward staff members as severe disruptions.
And when a school fails to meet multiple standards and fails to create a safe and appropriate environment in which students can thrive, it warrants serious action.
The motion carried unanimously.
Jennifer Nagourney serves as the Executive Director of the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. To say she had a hell of a year would be an understatement! Nagourney’s role is to oversee the charter schools in Delaware and to make sure they are in compliance on academic, financial, and organizational performance frameworks. When a charter school has issues, she is one of the main DOE people who determines what type of action to take. Her office works with all of the other offices in the DOE.
2015 started off with a bang in the form of Family Foundations Academy. After former Heads of School Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington got caught with their hands in the school finances cookie jar, the Charter School Office put the school under formal review a year ago. After a whirlwind amount of speculation, the school’s board and leaders was essentially taken over by East Side Charter School. A few months later, no less than four Delaware charters went on formal review: Academy of Dover, Prestige Academy, Delaware Design-Lab High School, and Freire Charter School. All came off formal review status but they are all on probation. Two were new charters scheduled to open in August who received the designation due to low enrollment which affected their financial viability. Two were for academic reasons, and of those two one was for their former school leader embezzling from the school (Academy of Dover’s Noel Rodriguez).
As the 2014-2015 school year ended, two charters officially closed due to charter revocation decisions by the Delaware State Board of Education. Moyer and Reach Academy for Girls closed their doors forever, but five more were opening up in August: Delaware Design-Lab High School, Delaware Met, First State Military Academy, Freire Charter School, and Great Oaks Charter School.
Towards the end of September, issues started to rise with one of the new charters, Delaware Met. After the school was placed on formal review by the State Board in October, the Charter School Accountability Committee voted yesterday for a recommendation of charter revocation at the end of this marking period, in January 2016.
Earlier in the year, with all of the charter movement, as well as the designation of the sixPriority Schools in Christina and Red Clay, the Wilmington Education Advisory Commission recommended a charter moratorium in Wilmington until the state could come up with an action plan for charters in Delaware. This became legislation in the Spring, and this all morphed into the current Wilmington Education Improvement Commission which is leading a redistricting effort in Wilmington. While charters don’t make the news a lot coming out of this, they are certainly a part of any plans that come out of the commission. The State Board of Education will vote on this in January 2016. Meanwhile, the DOE and the State Board are working on the Statewide Resources for Educational Opportunities in Delaware to determine how all schools in Delaware can best serve their students.
Due to the events at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, House Bill 186 caused controversy in the Spring. Introduced by State Rep. Kim Williams , Hosue Bill 186 dealt with how charter schools are audited. The bill morphed a couple of times into the final bill which passed the House in June and will land in the Senate Education Committee come January. As well, State Rep. John Kowalko openly and publicly opposed the Charter School Transportation Fund and the Charter School Performance Fund. Rep. Williams also introduced a bill to make sure if a charter school student transfers mid-year to a traditional public school district, the money would follow the student. That bill has not even been heard by the House Education Committee, over ten months after its introduction. I’ve heard rumblings of legislation which would make sure traditional districts send timely information on students that transfer to charters, especially in regards to IEPs and discipline. Which is fine in theory, but there is a caveat in the potential legislation about the districts paying for the funding if the charters don’t receive that information in a timely fashion. That will be a bill to watch in 2016 if it garners enough support to become potential legislation. It will be a lightning rod of controversy between the pro and con charter crowd in Delaware.
All of this charter school activity has certainly kept Nagourney and her staff on their toes at the DOE in Dover. With a staff of four, this is a great deal of work for this office. Add in modifications, performance reviews, special education compliance, standardized testing, and leadership changes among the charters in 2015, Nagourney definitely had her busiest year ever at the DOE. It is no secret I have issues with many concepts behind charter schools as well as the DOE, but I believe the Delaware DOE has come a long way in terms of monitoring the charters and taking action when needed. This can all be attributed to the leadership of Jennifer Nagourney. While her name doesn’t get thrown around in the media the way Secretary Godowsky or even Penny Schwinn does, make no mistake that Nagourney is one of the busiest leaders at the DOE. I am hoping, for her sake, that 2016 does not throw as many challenges her way. In fact, the Charter School Office is taking another look at how the Organizational part of their charter performance framework is made up and a working group will be starting to make recommendations on this.
Nagourney, in my opinion, is one of the strongest leaders at the Delaware DOE. This is not an honor I usually give to anyone down there! At least there is only one charter opening up next year in the form of Delaware STEM Academy. I am pretty sure the DOE will be watching very carefully at how any new charters use their planning period between approval and opening to make sure a Delaware Met never happens again! My biggest wish for this office to carefully monitor special education at Delaware charters. I’m sure that falls under the watch of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE, but I can say with certainty they are missing a lot. It is not every charter, but it is far too many. I have tons of issues with special education as a whole in Delaware, but some charters do not even know the most basic fundamental aspects of special education laws.
Underneath all of this is a potential ticking time-bomb in the form of the ACLU and Delaware Community Legal Aid complaint to the Office of Civil Rights a year ago. This complaint alleged certain charter schools discriminated against minorities and students with disabilities in their application process. If it becomes a law suit, it would be against the State of Delaware and the Red Clay Consolidated School District who is the only district charter school authorizer in the state. Information was sent to that office in February this year, but no ruling has come down since. This could happen at any time.
The Delaware Met had their final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee this morning. The group’s final recommendation: charter revocation by the end of the next marking period! Which would bring this school to a close by January 22nd. Of course, the Delaware State Board of Education has to also vote on this, which they will at their meeting on 12/17. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the meeting, but I will report details once I receive them.
The group said the Delaware Met violated the terms of their charter. The school opened in August after a one-year delay approved by the DOE. Charter closures are serious business. I feel bad for all the students and parents who made a choice to go to this school. It looks like they will need to start searching again. I didn’t wish for this school to close. I really hope any school can do the right thing for their students. In this case, I don’t think the school had the capability and the means to effectively run this school.
A great deal of the student population at Delaware Met came from Moyer, which also had its charter revoked during the last school year. As well, the school has over a quarter of their population as special education students with IEPs.
In spite of a very intensive hiring process, we were unable to find many teachers with urban experience or a familiarity with the local community and those that we did hire were from charter schools that had closed such as Moyer Academy. Those teachers brought with them the “alternative school” mentality, along with lingering conflicts from the past years, which perpetuated the punitive, authoritarian mindset, which is the antithesis of the BPL design. We had hoped that the past relationships with the students would have a positive effect on their relationships with students, though this was not the case.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse with Delaware Met, I ran across many updated documents on the Delaware Department of Education Charter School website regarding their formal review. The number one issue at this point seems to be their enrollment. If they were approved for 260 students, and they must maintain 80% of that as required by Delaware law, that would be 208 students. As of their September 30th count, they had 215 students. In these documents, they announced four more students have withdrawn since 9/30, and six more will withdraw from the school very soon. This puts their enrollment at 205. They are now completely out of compliance with their charter.
The letter from the Delaware DOE’s Exceptional Children’s Resources Group is very telling. 59 IEPs were looked at by the DOE, and ALL 59 are out of compliance. Delaware Met’s Special Education coordinator, Sue Ogden, used to work in the Delaware prison system as a special education coordinator, so she should be well aware of DOE timelines and what is needed in student’s IEPs. While the below documents give many reasons for the school challenges, I still can’t help but think many of the events at this school could have been avoided. It is now near the end of November, and NONE of the IEPs are in compliance as of November 25th. This does not bode well for students with disabilities at this school which now represent over 28% of the school population. Furthermore, in the narrative in the documents below, there is talk about going through 80 IEPs. Have 21 students with disabilities who had IEPs left the school?
For their in-school suspension, students are required to write the following:
And another “behaviour lesson”:
Now, with a school filled with at a minimum, 59 IEPs, and admitted issues on teacher parts where they treated a school like an “alternative” school, are the in-school suspensions warranted? I can’t answer that, but I do know in-school suspension does not count towards a manifestation determination hearing. Only out-of-school suspensions or expulsion. And is it just me, and I get the whole concept of restorative justice, but isn’t the point of school discipline already a punishment? What could a student do to “make up to the school” for their behavior? What if they have a disability and it was a manifestation of their disability and they don’t even realize it was a “behavior”?
This “in-school suspension room”. I have some big issues with it. It seems like an easy solution to stop discipline problems. Student gets in trouble, send them to the ISS room. The below documents also state their special education coordinator, Sue Ogden, will make sure accommodations are being followed while students are in there. But is one of their accommodations to be sent to an ISS room if they get in trouble? There are more questions than answers here. Sue Ogden, as I stated earlier, used to work in the prison system. Even with all its issues and students with potential legal issues, the Delaware Met is not a prison.
The Charter School Accountability Committee will meet with Delaware Met for their final formal review meeting next Tuesday, from 8:30-10:00am. At this point, the committee will determine their recommendation for the school. The Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education will decide the school’s fate at the December State Board of Education meeting on December 17th. In the meantime, read the below documents to find out the school’s interpretation of events. I still have this nagging feeling there is much more going on at this school…
Delaware Met response to Charter School Accountability Committee
Specific Information requested by the Charter School Accountability Committee
Exceptional Children Resources Group monitoring and letter sent to Delaware Met
Teachers Emails regarding Science and Social Studies Curriculum
Board of Directors questions to Innovative Schools with response from them
The Delaware Met had their public hearing for their formal review on 11/16/15. Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education released the transcript. One thing is for sure: the words “blogs”, “blogger”, or “bloggers” were mentioned 8 times in the transcript. I was glad to see two members of the Delaware State Board of Education attended this event. Instead of writing about the public hearing, I’m going to let the people speak.
I feel like three months of my son’s education has been wasted because he hasn’t done much work, not many projects
I’ve tried to contact teachers with no response
…when we hear some of the horror stories that are going on with these kids, a lot of times, schoolwork might be the last thing on their mind, because a sibling was just killed three months ago, or they’re dealing with being displaced, you know, homeless.
For whatever reason, they opened the doors up and let a lot of kids in that probably didn’t fit the model and didn’t really understand what the model was.
Whatever bugs you all didn’t iron out first, go back to the drawing board, fix it. As they say, you got a hole, plug it.
But we don’t get the connection from the people who are in charge, the charter school or whoever is in charge of the charter school, and the parents, there’s no connection.
…the biggest question is who is this management organization, Innovative Schools, and why does it seem that they have been an impediment to this process? We know that starting something new often is a rocky start, but it seems like the people who are supposed to know about education in this case don’t know anything about education.
It is disturbing that some of the things that should have been in place from the first day still aren’t in place, and we’re still struggling to try to get some open communication. I think it’s interesting that a lot of parents are here, but I don’t see too many of the administrators.
So I think we need to look into it further versus basing it upon opinions of bloggers and individuals who have not been to the school to visit firsthand to see exactly what’s going on versus reading the emails that are being sent.
I don’t know who blogs. It has to be somebody in the school. It has to be somebody in the schools that’s giving out certain information that, you know, that I know some of the students is not giving out, I’m thinking it’s probably one of the teachers that don’t like and are trying to sabotage the whole school.
And whoever the blogger is, they need to mind their own business. We already know there’s an issue.
Do you all understand how bad that sounds to a kid when they go to school, the teacher says we don’t have to learn because they’re closing the school next year.
Help us out. Give the school some funding. You all keep talking about you don’t have money, or whoever, they don’t have money to put this in, put that in.
When you open something up, if you put a different animals in one cage, you’re going to have problems until you get somebody in there that knows how to train everybody.
And again, the story writers, the bloggers, whoever is doing this, saying what they want to say to make it, solidify what you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to close the school down, I mean, of course.
What kind of school around here has a mentoring program?
And I went to Mr. A.J. and he told me that, you know, I can guarantee you the school is not going to shut down and everything like that.
I got at least three trays in one day for lunch, and all the meat was bleeding, but I couldn’t get nothing brown bag. I don’t understand. These teachers going out, buying McDonald’s and all that, but we can’t do that because of other stuff.
And we have some teachers that don’t even come to school, and I don’t even know how my report card going to look. I’m not a bad kid. I know my report card going to look okay in other schools, but this school, I don’t know.
Okay, what is up with the “blame the blogger” game for a school going on formal review? Trust me, the Delaware Department of Education is not going to put a school on formal review because of information I write about. By the time I’m writing stuff, they most likely already know a great deal of the information. The things I’ve heard coming from this brand new school, that had two years to work out all the kinks, disturb me on many levels. This is a school that stated their budget for food is going to be over-budget. If they aren’t cooking the meat correctly and students keep going back for non-carcinogenic food that is actually cooked all the way through, I can see why that would be. If teachers aren’t showing up or they don’t know how to teach the curriculum, that is troubling. What kind of school lets other students show up to the school without any type of security system to prevent that? This school has already received plenty of funding, from the state and from the Longwood Foundation. Throwing more money at it isn’t going to solve anything. They will find some way to squander those funds. Plenty of schools have mentoring programs, and A.J. English knows that. I am always suspicious of anyone that may have a financial motive to keep a school open. The school may know about the issues, but parents and the public may not. That is why I blog. Do you want to know the words I was looking for the most in this transcript and I didn’t see mentioned anywhere? Special Education, IEP, and disability. How can you defend a school and not even talk about their biggest problem? Innovative Schools is in way over their head across the entire state. Other new charter schools that relied on them are having issues as well. I don’t want any school to shut down unless it is bad for students in the short-term and the long-term. I believe Delaware Met fits in both of those categories.
I know some people think I just write whatever I want and call it a day. That is not the case. There are things I could write about this school but haven’t yet. The assumption that I haven’t been in the school must mean I don’t know anything about it. Wrong. I know plenty. I went to their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting. I heard the many questions Delaware Met and Innovative Schools couldn’t answer. These are key and essential questions that need to be answered AND fixed, or they should close. But let’s get one thing straight, unless the school is posing an immediate health risk or students are in danger, the DOE and State Board of Education don’t just shut a school down. They go through the process, and the likely options are: probation, revocation of their charter at the end of the year, or they rule the school is doing just fine. I’ve taken other steps as well in light of things I’ve heard about this school. It is obvious Delaware Met has sent information out saying “Don’t believe the blogger.” That is their prerogative. I just ask folks to keep an open mind and ask the questions.
To read the entire transcript, please read below.
Last night, the Delaware Met had their formal review public hearing at the Carvel Building up in Wilmington. About six students and four parents showed up. The school’s acting head of school, Teresa Gerchman with Innovative Schools, didn’t show up. Two students gave public comment about their teachers not giving instruction, and frequent “breaks” including smoking, ordering McDonalds, and leaving the school to go to the store. One parent asked the Delaware DOE to shut the school down, and two others want them to stay open. I think the students win this one, and I’m glad they had the bravery to speak up about their concerns with the school. I can’t wait to see this transcript!