The Gateway Lab School Board of Directors went through a radical shift between their July and August board meetings. Four board members disappeared but nothing was found in the minutes or audio recordings stating those board members resigned. As well, changes to their by-laws might have been done illegally.
Gateway Lab School
Audit: All School Board Agendas, Minutes, & Audio Recordings; Caesar Rodney, Brandywine & Laurel Are Breaking The Law Big Time!Transparency
Transparency in public education is a must. When more than a quarter of Delaware’s state budget goes to public education, the citizens expect, and rightfully so, transparency. But some of our districts and charters struggle with transparency.
I haven’t done this since 2016, but I thought it was a good time to see how Delaware’s traditional school district and charter school boards were doing with transparency on their websites. I checked for board minutes, board agendas, and board audio recordings.
**UPDATED** Please Read: Gateway, Great Oaks, & KuumbaFOIA
A week and a half ago, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to ALL Delaware school districts and charter schools. The districts and charters in the title of this post are those who have not sent anything back including an acknowledgment you received my FOIA request. This is not meant to call you out but rather to inform you of the deadline in 8-9 days (March 20th or March 21st) based on when I sent the requests.
If you did NOT receive the request either in email or from the online form provided on your website, please reach out to me at email@example.com
For the rest of our districts and charter schools in Delaware, I am very appreciative of your official FOIA response or your acknowledgement you got my request. Thank you!
Updated, 3/13/2018: As the folks named in the title respond, I am taking them out of the title!
Ex Delaware Military Academy Leader’s Letter To Gateway Lab School Gives Stunning Insight On Charter SchoolsDelaware Charter Schools
Recently, a Gateway Lab School board member reached out to the former leader of the Delaware Military Academy, Chuck Baldwin, for potential recommendations for Gateway. This was presented at one of their recent board meetings in public session, therefore, this is a public document. The letter gives certain… well, I’ll let you read it and tell me what you think! I’m pretty sure those with their Delaware military charter history can guess his date error at first glance but I wanted to present the document as is!
Big Trouble At Gateway Charter! Executive Director Resigns At Board Meeting!Gateway Lab School
Tim Griffiths, the Executive Director of Gateway Lab School, resigned last Wednesday night at their board meeting. The Wilmington charter school, which caters to students with disabilities and struggling students, has been up and down in terms of success over the years.
Griffiths’ resignation comes on the heels of their Board President, Nate Schwartz, resigning a few weeks ago. The school is facing what many charters in New Castle County are going through these days- declining enrollment. But Gateway is a school that has a particular niche. Many parents chose Gateway because of that niche. If enrollment is going down, that means a few things. Either the districts and other charters are doing a better job with special education or Gateway is struggling in that area.
Because there was not a quorum of the board at their meeting last week, the board will meet this week to officially vote on accepting Griffiths’ resignation letter.
As of today, their board consists of Vice-President and Acting President Jon Fletcher, Treasurer Henry Clampitt, Community Director Geoff Grivner, Community Director Joyce Henderson, Teacher Director Drew Keohane, Parent Director Tina Horgan, and Community Director Kenyatta Austin.
Gateway made major news in Delaware in the Fall of 2014 when their charter renewal was in doubt. Due to a groundswell of support from parents, legislators, and advocates for students with disabilities, their charter was renewed. But enrollment was not an issue at that time.
The audio recording from their February 20th board meeting is not on their website as of this writing.
Will The Real Publius Please Stand Up?Henry Clampitt
This just in: Henry Clampitt, a candidate for the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education, just told a crowd of people at a PTA debate for the candidates, that he has been a victim of bullying by a blogger in Kent County. He stated he is not a blogger. The question that was asked of Clampitt was his stance on bullying. Clampitt ran out of time but kept on talking and stated he needed to say this.
Yes, I wrote about Clampitt being Publius. Long after someone else outed him on Twitter. We all suspected but that was the first public confirmation of this. Now, in the final weeks of the Red Clay board seat campaign, Clampitt addresses the issue. Let me clarify one thing. Publius was NOT a blogger. He commented on a blog. There is a huge difference.
The last time Publius commented on Kilroy’s Delaware, he said he was saying goodbye and the “sign was in the yard”. Publius has not been seen since. Around the same time, Henry Clampitt joined the Gateway Lab School Board of Directors. Make of that what you will. Publius was a bully on Kilroy’s Delaware. He went after people with absolutely no mercy. I will shed no tears for the consequences of those actions. But we do all owe Publius a debt of gratitude. His stance on charter schools and enrollment preferences and school choice kept the conversation going long after most people would have drifted away.
So if Clampitt wasn’t Publius, who was? Was it the Smoke Monster from LOST? Was it the Candy Man? Was it Donald Trump? Was it Kilroy himself? Was it Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? Or was it…
The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**Henry Clampitt
All relationships have their ups and downs. Such is the case between former Kilroy’s Delaware commenter Publius e decere and former Pencader board member and current Christina board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan. Throw in a wild card like Henry Clampitt, former board member of Charter School of Wilmington, current board member at Gateway Lab School, and also a candidate for the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education, and you have what I like to call a bizarre love triangle (which just so happens to be an awesome tune by New Order). But what I found this morning… that brings this triangle to a whole new level…
Delaware Dept. of Justice Finding On Gateway Lab School FOIA ComplaintGateway Lab School
Last Spring, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act complaint against Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school, to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office. As any regular reader of this blog is aware, I frequently review meeting minutes for charter schools and school districts. What I saw in the March minutes for Gateway Lab School shocked me. Not so much from what they did, but the fact our Attorney General’s office released similar opinions on these kind of matters in the seven months prior to this. I bear no ill will towards Gateway or their board. I have always commended this charter school for servicing students with disabilities as the bulk of their student population. I was among the majority who felt the Charter School Accountability Committee’s 2014 recommendation to shut the school down was absolutely ridiculous, especially when that decision was based on standardized test scores.
After I filed the complaint, myself and Gateway went back and forth via email on the complaint. During that time, I found another similar action by the Gateway board. While I had some pains submitting the original complaint because of my loyalty for a special needs school, I felt it was important for them to correct this action. Did they? And how did the Attorney General’s office rule on my complaint? Find out below!
Which Charters are Suing Christina and the Delaware DOE?Delaware Chancery Court
Yes, a group of Delaware charters are trying to strike gold over the charter funding issue. Which charters? Newark Charter School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, First State Montessori Academy, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Gateway Charter School, Great Oaks, Kuumba Academy, MOT Charter School, Odyssey Charter School, Providence Creek Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School. As well, there are a handful of parents suing on behalf of their minor children. Below are the complaints filed against Christina and the Delaware DOE. There is also a motion to expedite proceedings. I have not had time to fully read these, but I will after the ESSA Discussion Group meeting tonight. This is going to turn Delaware education on its ear!
Gateway Lab School Website DisappearsGateway Lab School
Many charter schools in Delaware changed their websites over the summer. But Gateway Lab School’s website is gone. A message pops up indicating this domain name expired on 8/24/16 and is pending renewal or deletion. That can’t be good. I hope they get something up and running soon. By Delaware law, they must have a website.
Last Friday, I did an inspection of all the Delaware charter schools to see if they were in compliance with transparency on their website. Gateway had some issues dealing with posting minutes from their board meetings and financial oversight committees. Now it looks like there are bigger issues!
Updated about ten minutes later…
On Gateway’s Facebook page, the following announcement was made yesterday:
Former Charter School Of Wilmington Board Member Finds New Home At Gateway Lab SchoolHenry Clampitt
For Immediate Release:
August 19th, 2016
Henry Clampitt, a Hockessin resident in the suburbs of Wilmington, DE, joined the Board of Directors at Gateway Lab School. Clampitt previously served as a board member for the top-rated but controversial Charter School of Wilmington. He is also a very vocal public speaker at Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meetings. In a sense, Clampitt has gone from one of the highest-rated (as measured by standardized test scores) schools in the state to one of the lowest. While this hasn’t been officially announced by the charter school known for serving high populations of special needs students, he does appear on the list of their Board of Directors as shown in the below graphic. It is unknown when he officially joined the board since their board meeting minutes have not been updated even though they have had two official board meetings since then.
As a boisterous supporter of Delaware charter schools, Clampitt served on the Enrollment Preference Task Force in Delaware and supported charter schools abilities to pre-test students prior to enrollment. He also serves as a member of the Legislative Advisory Committee for the Delaware Charter Schools Network, a lobbyist organization that advocates and protects charter schools in Delaware. He received a certification from the Delaware Department of Education for Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and Board Member Finance Training. In addition, as per his LinkedIn account, Clampitt received his real estate certification from the Delaware Department of Professional Regulation. In addition to his job at Strategy Services, Inc., Clampitt keeps himself very busy with his support of charter schools.
A source, who wished to remain anonymous but did allow me to use their alias “CherryPicker2016”, said the following about Clampitt’s new role:
I think Clampitt will be a wonderful addition to Gateway Lab School. He has the charter school expertise and wherewithal to serve on a charter school board. He knows his way around charter schools given his time at Charter School of Wilmington. I believe any board member is a good thing, whether they are publicly elected or not. Why wouldn’t Gateway want a fervent charter supporter like Clampitt?
Another source, who also wished to remain anonymous but also allowed me to use their alias of “Erece Desiul Blup” had this to say:
This guy talks and talks. I hope Gateway invested in some good audio recording devices for their board meetings and have a lot of memory on their servers. They are going to need it. Perhaps this means he won’t be going to as many Red Clay board meetings. That would be super!”
I did advise Mr. Blup that this blog will be very interested to hear what Mr. Clampitt has to say at future Gateway board meetings.
Rumors swirled months ago that Clampitt may be attempting to run against Red Clay Board Vice-President Kenneth Rivera next year, but nothing came of that. Additional rumors, based on a fake Twitter account, suggested that Clampitt was using an alias to post on a local blog in support of charter schools, but that has never been 100% substantiated. That particular anonymous commenter gave a farewell post on the local blog a while back indicating they would no longer be posting there, it was time to move on, and something to the effect of “the lawn sign is down”. The commenter has not been back since.
Ironically enough, Clampitt served on the board at CSW during a tough time in the public spotlight. In December of 2014, CSW was named in a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union against the Red Clay Consolidated School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education. The complaint alleged that CSW, along with other charter schools in the state, were furthering discrimination in the state by allowing charter schools to use selective enrollment preferences in their admissions processes. The Red Clay Consolidated School District is Charter School of Wilmington’s authorizer. At that time, Charter School of Wilmington had a .2% population of students with disabilities, 6% African-American students, 2.3% low-income students, and .1% English Language learners. Since Clampitt left their board, CSW was able to raise those student populations. As of the 2015-2016 school year, they jumped to .5% students with disabilities, 6.8% African-American students, 3.7% low-income students and .2% English Language learners. At the same time as the ACLU complaint, Clampitt served on the board during an era of “non-transparency” as “Cherrypicker2016” put it, and the board was criticized by their authorizer for not putting board minutes and financial information on their board site as required by Delaware state code.
During this time, Gateway Lab School was in the midst of their own turmoil. They were up for charter renewal with the Dept. of Education. The initial recommendations coming out of the committee were to close the school over low standardized test scores, but a public outcry from parents of the school, other charter school supporters, legislators, and concerned citizens and organizations prompted the Delaware State Board of Education to put the charter school on probation. This reporter did comb through the hundreds of pages of public comment during this process and was unable to find any letters of support for the school from Clampitt or Charter School of Wilmington.
In an October, 2015 Delaware Charter Schools Network newsletter, Clampitt was chosen as the “Parent Spotlight” recipient. When discussing education politics, Clampitt did not recommend this for everyone.
Education politics is a challenging topic. I would say that parents should only get involved in educational politics if they can keep focused on the issues rather than on the people behind them. The political process is not for the faint of heart.
When asked in the same newsletter what he would do if he had a million dollars, Clampitt responded with:
Well, let’s be clear that this would be “the million dollar windfall” I have been waiting for. When it arrives, I would like to use it to help endow a fund for the expansion of CSW so that more students could be enrolled and enjoy this excellent high school experience.
Clampitt did not elaborate if this imaginary CSW expansion would entail changing their enrollment preferences. But after Clampitt left the board at CSW, their board did begin to talk about these topics in a new light. When asked about this very topic during one of the Enrollment Preference Task Force meetings, their board minutes from October, 2014 reflect a response from Clampitt as:
Some students, possibly due to a bad day or other life experiences, do not make it to the specific interest through the rubric.
At the next meeting of the task force, Clampitt said:
Assessments are an important tool to gather necessary information on an applicant, using interest as an example.
In February of 2013, Clampitt volunteered his services to the now closed charter school, Pencader Business School. He attempted to train their newly constructed board prior to their charter revocation by the State Board of Education.
This blog would like to congratulate Mr. Clampitt for furthering his voluntary efforts on charter school boards. While this blog may not always agree with charter schools, this blog does feel it is important for certain charter school board members to serve on charter school boards. Charter schools are autonomous of many rules and regulations traditional school districts are subjected to, so this blog feels it is necessary to point out the difference between non-elected charter school board members and publicly elected district board members. Mr. Clampitt has a very fine and distinguished career serving on charter school boards.
The Smear Campaign At The Delaware Auditor’s Office & What The News Journal Didn’t Tell YouDelaware State Auditor, Kathleen Davies
Revenge is ugly business. When it takes place at a very high state level and the object of that revenge gets a whole article about it in the state’s biggest newspaper, it is really ugly.
Today, James Fisher and Matthew Albright published an article about the Auditor of Accounts, Kathleen Davies. The article claims Davies was put on leave over two months ago due to not using the state procurement card for travel expenses. According to the story, sources who would only be named as “state employees” contacted the Office of Management and Budget, then run by Ann Visalli, in November of 2015. They alleged Davies spent over $7700 in travel expenses (over four years) and received personal reimbursements instead of using the state p-card. She did do this. But was it wrong? Absolutely not. I’m not buying any of this. Let’s take a close look at what else was going on at the time these “sources” (as the News Journal calls them) filed this complaint.
Davies had just come out with a report on many charter schools, not just Delaware College Prep (the only school mentioned in the article). Kuumba Academy was also named in the report on personal reimbursements as using funds against the accounting policies of the state. Two other charters did not have any inappropriate use of state funds: Odyssey Charter School and Thomas Edison Charter School.
But there was more going on at that time. The reports on Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy had not come out yet. The September 30th enrollment inspection was just beginning (which was published earlier this Spring and pulled from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s website after Davies was put on leave). Another Delaware charter school, The Delaware Met, was under formal review. Hearings and meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee took place in November and December of 2015. One of the big questions surrounding Delaware Met was how they were spending their money. And by default, their operation management company, Innovative Schools, would also be looked at.
There was also an inspection released by Davies on December 7th. This surrounded an anonymous tip about Delaware Department of Education employees abusing travel expenses. No wrongdoing was found in the inspection report. But why would the News Journal not mention such an important part of this timeline in their article as well as the actual inspection? If this accusation by sources who have now become “whistleblowers” was made to the OMB in November of 2015, this would have been the same time when Davies would have been working on the DOE travel expense report which came out on December 7th. The timing on this is uncanny!
If it took six months for Davies to be put on leave, what was the OMB doing for six months? Why did Davies just happen to be put on leave at the same time the DOE was pitching a conniption fit about the September 30th Inspection Report written by Davies? The report, published by Wagner’s office on May 5th, can be found here. Why did Wagner pull the report which had absolutely nothing to do with her supposed reasons for being put on leave? Which other pending audits was Davies working on? I do know the answer to a couple of these, especially one that I submitted to the auditor’s office. John Fluharty, the policy analyst from the Auditor of Accounts office, contacted me on March 17th to discuss the tip I sent that office. I talked to him on March 18th with what I knew. No follow-up has taken place since then nor has any report been released on my tip. I find that to be very odd…
And then we have the charter school audit bill crisis. Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams released three different bills in the first part of the 148th General Assembly. The first two were stricken in lieu of the third one which passed the Delaware House on June 30th, 2015. It’s next destination was the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Delaware Senator David Sokola. Prior to the second part of the 148th G.A. beginning last January, rumors began circulating that Sokola was going to introduce his own charter school audit bill. With his friends at the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Sokola crafted new legislation which weakened Williams bill considerably. Williams and Sokola battled publicly on Facebook over the bill, resulting in an eventual compromise a few months later. They both met with Davies, who supported Williams bill, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. The new legislation, House Bill 435, passed both the House and Senate and awaits Governor Markell’s signature.
But the biggest question is this: what did Davies do that was so wrong, that would warrant such a drastic action? While the guidelines regarding travel expenses published by the News Journal said the state prefers state employees use the p-card, it doesn’t rule out personal reimbursements. Furthermore, the article states she told employees she was doing this. If you have something to hide, you don’t tell everyone in the office!!! The only way she would have been reimbursed for those travel expenses is if someone approved it and saw the receipts. Who approved the expenses? More importantly, where is the fire here?
Davies was not put on leave over this. This is a cover. The whole thing reeks of corruption at a very high level. Tom Wagner won’t talk about it because it’s a personnel issue. So how did the News Journal get the story? I can tell you this: I was contacted by an employee of the Delaware Department of Education who asked me if I heard about Kathleen Davies. This was on May 26th, a week after the September 30th report disappeared. This employee said “word is she had a falling out with Tom Wagner. And won’t be back.” Now I hear from sources all the time about different state employees. But how is that a DOE employee would have intimate knowledge of a situation between Tom Wagner and his second-in-command? And how in the world would they know Davies wouldn’t be returning? That would indicate a conversation took place with someone from the State Auditor’s office with either an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education or an employee of the State Board of Education for that much knowledge to come out for what we are being told is a “personnel issue”.
This is my firm belief: someone was very frightened about an audit inspection Davies was working on. Something that would make someone or several people look very bad. This person would have to have the power to be able to pull strings with an elected official to get Davies put on personal leave. Because this fabricated nonsense about personal reimbursements is absurd. Other state employees do it. Even our own Governor was mentioned in an audit report for not following state accounting rules with travel. Was he put on leave? Hell no! Was Tom Wagner put on leave when it was announced he “accidentally” let his own house go into foreclosure? Nope.
I’ve been going through all district and charter expenses the past few weeks and I can say with certainty that any travel expense amounts incurred by Davies are a drop in the bucket compared to what they spend. And I seriously questioned one district about an outrageously high amount in one coding area. No response on that one over two weeks later. So why target the one person who has the ability to produce reports that can put others in a very bad light over financial abuse? I believe I just answered my own question. To pull this off, that takes a serious amount of cunning and guile. Someone with pull and motivation. I would have to think Ann Visalli would know that other state employees use personal reimbursements for travel expenses. I don’t know much about her, except to say she resigned shortly after Davies was put on leave. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Who resigned before the budget passed.
As for Kathleen Davies, I hope she gets the vindication she deserves from this oh-so-obvious smear campaign against her. This is a woman who has spent most of her time at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office finding actual situations of financial abuse and scandal. Most of them have been against charter schools. Delaware Military Academy report in 2013. Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep reports in 2015. Providence Creek Academy, EastSide Charter School and Prestige Academy in 2016. And potentially more. But for those reading this smear article on Davies in the News Journal today, they won’t know all of this stuff going on behind the scenes. So if you read this, please share it so all Delawareans can know that Kathleen Davies is deserving of much more respect than this. I am positive she has enemies in this state. Those who expose the truth often do. Those who do wrong fear exposure more than anything. So who did Davies frighten so much that they would go to these lengths to remove her and tarnish her good name?
Updated, 6:12pm, 7/31/16: This article has been updated to reflect there was no wrongdoing on the part of Gateway Lab School in any audit report. This was an error on my end, and I did write an article to apologize to Gateway regarding this.
In Today’s Game: Can You Spot The FOIA Violation?FOIA, Gateway Lab School
Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school that serves a very high population of students with disabilities, held a special board meeting on April 4th, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a due process mediation. Can you spot the Delaware FOIA violation? It’s easy if you try!
Oops! That’s a big one! I’ve already filed the FOIA complaint to the Attorney General’s office. As a gentle reminder to all school boards in Delaware: you can discuss student related matters in executive session if it pertains to an issue, but you can’t vote on it in executive session. You need to come out of executive session and vote on it then. Now you can’t, and shouldn’t, say this is for x student’s due process mediation situation. But I would suggest giving a number for all action items at a board meeting. Many boards do this already. You can just say, as an example, “In the matter of 16-322, may I have a motion to vote on this action item?”, or something along those lines. It wasn’t that long ago that Brandywine School District’s board had the same issue which is causing issues for the district now as part of a lawsuit.
As well, I have also requested an opinion from the same office about public comment at public meetings. I have noticed some Delaware charter schools ask public comment to be submitted up to two weeks in advance before a board meeting. I don’t think that is in the spirit of the law. Any member of the public should have unfettered access to a public meeting and have the ability to give public comment without having to give advance notice.
Sorry Gateway! Don’t mean to call you out but if all of your board members have not received the full training on these matters I would definitely get on that!
Charter School Update Presentation To State Board of Education…Hmm…DE State Board of Education, Delaware Charter Schools
In the DOE’s Charter School Office presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, there is a very interesting tidbit at the end. They have a section called “Good News” and there are four charter schools listed: Early College High School, East Side, Family Foundations Academy, and Gateway Lab School. What is the good news?
As well, how are the Delaware Met students doing? Did they all transition or are some still falling through the cracks? The answers are here.
Charter Update To State Board of Education Puts 8 Charters At “Tier 3” StatusDelaware Charter Schools
The Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education will give a presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, November 19th. Among other things, they have rated charters on a scale of 1-3. These tiers will have 1 being good, 2 some issues, and 3…not so good. The charters at the Tier 3 status are Academia Antonio Alonso, Academy of Dover, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Odyssey Charter School, and Prestige Academy. This list does not include the charters that opened this year because there is nothing to compare their organizational and financial frameworks to. But even though Delaware Met and Delaware Design Lab are not on this list this does not mean they aren’t in trouble.
Delaware Design Lab High School is on probation following their formal review last year for low enrollment before they opened. The school did get their enrollment up, but according to this report the Charter School Office is reviewing their budget and enrollment and are on some type of corrective action. Delaware Met is on formal review for pretty much everything not even three months after they opened. One interesting observation was their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting has been changed from November 30th to December 1st. I would imagine this is because the DOE has to face the Joint Finance Committee over at Legislative Hall on the 30th. It looks like the Charter School Office will be pushing more involvement with parents at the charters with Parent Teacher Organizations. Parent involvement is never a bad thing!
Family Foundations Major Modification Approved By State Board of Education, Potential Conflict Ahead?Family Foundations Academy
On Thursday, the Delaware State Board of Education approved the major modification Family Foundations Academy submitted on June 30th. Following the Charter School Accountability Committee’s final meeting on August 7th, a public hearing occurred on August 10th. On August 20th, the CSAC approved the major modification.
The modification was approved for FFA to move it’s elementary school from it’s present location at 1101 Delaware Street in New Castle to 170 Lukens Drive in New Castle. The 170 Lukens Drive has been home to the recently closed Reach Academy for Girls as well as the Pencader Business School which was shut down by the state two and a half years ago. In addition, they will move their middle school from their former location in Newport at 1 Fallon Avenue in Newport to the former FFA elementary school location. In the 2016-2017 school year, FFA will move it’s middle school to 160 Lukens Drive, the other building where Reach and Pencader used to be and will sell the 1101 Delaware St. building. If they sell the building sooner, the middle school will move to 160 Lukens Drive shortly afterwards.
The goal of the modification is enrollment expansion. Currently both schools have enrollment up to 800 students. This would allow them to expand to 1100 students. Where this gets somewhat sticky is House Bill 56, passed by the 148th General Assembly in April of this year, and signed by Governor Markell on May 5th. While this law put a moratorium on any new charter schools until 2018, it does not specifically mention major modifications with existing charter schools. If a charter school is expanding, it may go against the law because the law specifically states:
“There shall be a moratorium on all new charter schools opening until June 30, 2018 or until the State Board of Education develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, district, and vocational-technical schools in the State, whichever occurs first. The aforementioned strategic plan shall be based on a systematic evaluation of educational needs using national models and best practices that align with the public education system, such as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers guidelines.”
By expanding their enrollment, FFA is throwing off the dynamic of existing charter schools and traditional school districts enrollment figures during this crucial time of transition with the current redistricting effort in Wilmington. If Red Clay Consolidated takes Christina’s City of Wilmington schools, those schools may suffer from a decreased enrollment based on the actions of FFA. The current Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities initiative, suggested by Governor Jack Markell in March, is enacting the Strategic Plan called for in House Bill 56. The Delaware Department of Education must submit this report to the Governor, and they are anticipating its completion in November.
It would not shock me to see more charters submitting major modification requests in an effort to increase their enrollment before all is said and done. At Gateway Lab School, the new principal and interim head of schools is a former assistant principal from East Side Charter School, Rebecca Brookings. When FFA was under formal review last winter, East Side essentially took over the school from its prior leadership team and board. With one of their key employees overseeing Gateway, some have expressed concern about the East Side Board of Directors and Dr. Lamont Browne beginning a charter consortium in New Castle County. East Side, Kuumba Academy, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison are all part of what is known as the Delaware Charter Collaborative, a consortium of charters that have their own teacher evaluation method outside of the DPAS-II used by every other school in Delaware. How long until FFA and Gateway become a part of this consortium? And what does it all mean for WEAC’s recommendation of a group to help manage the Wilmington charters? The mysteries continue….
Updated, 10:03pm, 8/22/15: This article has been corrected to clarify Family Foundations Academy is NOT selling their 1 Fallon Ave. location because they do not own it. This is owned by St. Matthew’s Church. But they will be selling the 1101 Delaware St. location. Sorry for any confusion folks!
Who Is Dr. Steven Godowsky?Delaware Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky
It was announced today in every single Delaware media outlet that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is “stepping down” and Dr. Steven Godowsky, the former Superintendent of the New Castle County V0cational Technical School District, will fill the role on an interim basis pending a special hearing with the Delaware Senate to accept Governor Markell’s nomination on October 20th. Who is he?
According to his LinkedIn account and his biography with the University of Delaware, this would not be his first rodeo with the Department of Education. He served as a Supervisor there from 1977-1982 after serving a short stint in the former Alfred I. DuPont school district as a special education teacher. He ran the Exceptional Children/Special Education division before becoming returning to teaching at New Castle County Vo-Tech. In 2000, he was appointed Assistant Superintendent and three years later he became the Superintendent, a role he served faithfully for the next eight years. Upon retiring in 2011, Dr. Godowsky served as a Supervisor the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).
I ran across him for the first time from the DOE’s Charter School Accountability Committee final report for Gateway Lab School’s charter renewal last fall. He helped the school to overcome the odds when their charter was renewed last December after the CSAC recommended their charter not be renewed. He also assisted the Pencader Business School Board of Directors in board governance training at the former charter school in 2012.
As a former Superintendent of the Year in Delaware, Godowsky also served as President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Administration (now called DASA) in 2008.
It sounds like Godowsky has decades of experience with Delaware education, and I am particularly impressed he has a very rich background in special education and is willing to fight for students with disabilities, as evidenced by his work with Gateway.
New Castle County Vo-Tech Education Associate Danny Rufo tweeted the following statement earlier today:
While some may lament his time with the Vision 2015 workshop, and their ties to Rodel, let’s be honest and face facts. Most of the higher-ups in Delaware school districts and charters have spent some sort of time on one of these committees. It does not mean they are “bought and paid for” by Rodel, especially in the pre-Race To The Top years.
I definitely think he is much higher up the education ladder in experience compared to Mark Murphy. It has become more than obvious what we don’t need in a Secretary of Education, so this is a step in the right direction. Nothing against Dr. Godowsky, but I really hope the Delaware Senate asks him many questions in regards to the future of Delaware education. When Mark Murphy passed the nomination, the questions from the Senate were very limited in scope. We must not make the same mistake again. I feel confident, based on his vast experience as well as ringing endorsements from several Delaware legislators, he could be the right man for the job!
Delaware Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report 2015Delaware Charter Schools
“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year. This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself. We need to learn from the past.”
The above quote was found in a Delaware charter school’s board minute notes recently. About a year ago, I went through all the charters websites and graded them on certain things: board minutes up to date, agendas for next board meetings posted, and monthly financial information posted. I will be grading each charter based on this information again this year, but I am adding in Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) notifications and minutes. I’m not including charters that haven’t opened yet or charters who got shut down this year cause really, what’s the point?
I can say a lot of the charters have become more compliant and transparent with these in the past year. But some have not. I gave a little bit of slack on the board minutes. A lot of them had a meeting in the past week, so I don’t expect them to get the June minutes up right away. If you see red, it’s not a major thing, but they need to fix it. If it’s in BOLD red, they are majorly breaking the law and they need to fix that ASAP! State law mandates charters put up their monthly financial info up within 15 days of their last board meeting. As well, you have to have a CBOC committee and meetings. Two of the charters on here with some big dinks are on probation already so they need to get on that. Two others are up for charter renewal, so they definitely need to jam on it!
Academia Antonia Alonso– Agenda: no (only has two agendas for two board meetings in past year listed), Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: has meetings listed through end of 2015, Grade: C-
Academy of Dover– Agenda: Yes, Board minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: July 30th, Grade: B
Campus Community School– Agenda: July 2015, Board minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: March 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, Grade: D
Charter School of Wilmington– Agenda: Yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, but does indicate no July meeting, Grade: B
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security– Agenda: no, website gives generic agenda for every meeting, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade: F
Delaware College Prep– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: April 2014, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade F- for Formal Review
Delaware Military Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: January 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Monday of the month, Grade: D
Early College High School– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: May 2015 (states June meeting had no quorum which is majority of board members present to approve items up for action), CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: no, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed but states meets 4th Thursday of the month, Grade: F
Eastside Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: Shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A
Family Foundations Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A
First State Montessori Academy– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: February 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 4th Thursday of the month, Weird Fact: Uses WordPress as their website, the same as Exceptional Delaware…, Grade: D+
Gateway Lab School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A+
Kuumba Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: B
Las Americas Aspiras Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: yes*, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Thursday of each month, *Superstar: Monthly Financial report is excellent, shows both what the DOE wants AND what state appropriations and codes are needed!!!!, Grade: A+
MOT Charter School– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: not sure, shows agenda for June 2015 meeting but last meeting was in May 2013, CBOC Minutes: May 2013, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: F
Newark Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: board meetings listed through June, 2016, Grade: A+
Odyssey Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 12th, Grade: A-
Positive Outcomes– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 19th, Bonus: board meetings AND CBOC meetings listed through June 2016, Grade: A+
Prestige Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: none listed, website only shows members of CBOC, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 3rd Tuesday of each month, Grade: F
Providence Creek Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 25th, Bonus: does have all future board meetings through June 2016 on school calendar, Grade: A+
Sussex Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: February 2015, next board meeting: September 16th (no meetings in July or August), Grade: C
Thomas Edison Charter– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 17th, Bonus: Has all board meetings listed through June 2016, Grade A+
There you have it. The Exceptional Delaware July 2015 Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report. 8 out of 22 need to do some serious damage control quick. Because once DOE Jenny (as Kilroy calls her) reads this report, she’s going to have some serious questions for some of you!
Oh, I forgot one thing. The quote up above will be shown later today as part of another article. Because even though that school wants to forget about the past year, the past is knocking on their door! More later!
Delaware Charter School Leadership ChangesDelaware Charter Schools
As the new school year approaches, there is movement afoot among Delaware charter schools. Some are coming from different states, while others are transferring between different Delaware charters.
William Bennett, a former principal from an elementary school in Media, PA has taken on the role of principal at Delaware Design Lab High School after a shocking exit and settlement from his former school.
Rebeccah Forrest, an assistant principal at EastSide Charter’s middle school is taking over the principal position at Gateway Lab School as Stacey Solomon heads over to St. Ann’s, a parochial private school.
At Providence Creek Academy, Chuck Taylor resumes his former role as head of school due to the bizarre illness Steve Esmond contracted in the Bahamas shortly before he was scheduled to start at PCA. Taylor left PCA in 2013, went to Campus Community for about six months, and returned to PCA to serve as interim head of school.
Dr. Evelyn Edney, former Dover High School principal, became the principal at Early College High School in Dover effective July 1st.
Former executive director Jack Perry of Prestige Academy in Wilmington has landed a new job as deputy chief of academic enrichment for the Philadelphia School District according to an article in Philly.com. Cordie Greenlea is the new executive director at Prestige after previous stints in Christina School District and most recently Delcastle Technical High School.
One thing you can say for Delaware charters, they certainly like to mix things up! As long as we don’t get more like Noel Rodriguez, Sean Moore, or Dr. Tennell Brewington.
GACEC Letter of Support for Gateway Lab School Contradicts Opposition Letter re: House Bill 50Governor's Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, House Bill 50
In reviewing GACEC and their modus operandi, I was curious if they gave public comment concerning Gateway Lab School. This is a charter school designed for students with disabilities that was threatened with non-renewal of their charter in late 2014. Thankfully, the State Board of Education and Mark Murphy did renew their charter. Public support was massive for this school. The GACEC wrote a letter of support for their charter renewal which can be found on pages 6 & 7 of the below document. My take on this below that.
It comes down to one statement in their letter: “In conjunction with our role as the state advisory panel, we would like to share our concerns on the recent decision by the Charter School Accountability Committee to recommend the State Board of Education revoke the charter of the Gateway Lab School based on assessment data.”
Assessment data should not be the sole factor in making a policy decision as per the GACEC. But in their letter of opposition to House Bill 50, President Robert Overmiller with the GACEC writes “the validity of overall test results will be undermined if large numbers of students do not participate in the assessment.” So GACEC can determine when data should and should not be used. The main issue with Gateway Lab School was academic performance. I completely agree with the GACEC, standardized test scores should never make or break a school. But they can’t play both sides on this balance beam. Because “Avoiding the unpleasant reality of assessments and their place in public education is not a viable response to relatively poor overall performance by Delaware students” as Overmiller wrote in the opposition letter, completely goes against their reasoning for supporting Gateway’s charter renewal.
In the case of Gateway, Overmiller actually went to the school to observe and see how their students were doing with the school and if they were showing academic interest and their special education was offering a rewarding environment. He found it was. But in the case of parent opt-out, Overmiller did not reach out to parents who are opting out, or try to understand the motivations behind their decisions. Has he talked to teachers or the DOE about the technical accommodation issues affecting students with disabilities? Did he observe how these children are doing on the test? This council is meant to look at issues with citizens with disabilities, but in their opposition letter, they never once say the words “special education” or “disabilities”. Once again GACEC, you can’t have it both ways. I truly believe the GACEC should rescind their letter of opposition to House Bill 50 until they have truly educated themselves on this issue.