Breaking News: Newark Charter School Leader Greg Meece To Retire End Of School Year

The following email went out to Newark Charter School parents this evening.  Greg Meece is retiring as Head of School at Newark Charter School.

Dear Newark Charter School Community:

It has been an honor to serve students and families in Delaware through my chosen vocation of education for nearly 40 years. The last 18 years can only be described as a “dream job” – starting and leading the greatest school of them all: Newark Charter School. It is, therefore, with mixed emotions that I am announcing my retirement this coming summer. By announcing this now, I give our Board of Directors ample time to find my replacement, and our Board has asked me to take a major role in the transition process.  A letter from our Board Chair, Dr. Franklin Newton, is attached.

NCS Board Chair Letter 1-15-19.pdf

I am confident that a qualified leader with creative ideas, loads of energy and a deep commitment to our school’s mission will take Newark Charter School to the next level. 

Deciding to transition from something you’ve spent your whole adult life doing is not easy. Not when you love what you do. My wife Rosemary, also a career educator, is retiring as well. We have discussed this for a long time, and we agreed to make the move together.

Leaving the place you come to work each morning is especially hard when it is so much a part of you. My heart and soul are forever fused with this remarkable institution. I am part of this school and it is a part of me.

I feel that the time is right for me to step aside. I am leaving our community with a school that is in great shape now and is well-positioned for a bright and promising future. We recently completed our Strategic Long-Range Plan. Our charter has a brand-new 10-year renewal term. Our two-time National Blue Ribbon School earned “straight A’s” on all of Delaware’s 2018 measures of charter school success. We have a healthy waiting list of students. Our finances and management rank among the top charter schools in the country. We acquired land and a building next door where we can grow. We have made substantial progress on a plan to greatly enhance our campuses and buildings.

As you might imagine, building and directing Newark Charter School over the last 18 years has been an all-encompassing endeavor. While I will greatly miss the entire community, come July, I am excited to spend more time with my family. With my one-year-old granddaughter and my father in his 90s, it is an interesting time in one’s life to be a bridge that links generations. Beyond spending more time with family, I am not sure what the future holds for me. After a chance to “smell the roses,” I most likely will look forward to new challenges, either part-time or full-time, in education or in something completely different.

Change will be challenging for all of us. I offer this advice that I, too, try to remember everyday: embrace change as something healthy and renewing. At the same time, never lose sight of what got us here, what we stand for, our “North Star.”

I am forever grateful to the founding board of directors who gave me this opportunity, and to the current board for their tremendous support. Nobody could ask for better colleagues. I am blessed to work beside so many teachers, staff and fellow administrators who bring true excellence to our school every day, for every child. Committed parents started Newark Charter School. I saw the powerful relationship between parents and staff – home and school. I will always cherish the many ways I have gotten to know and work with such involved and supportive partners in education.

Most of all, I will miss our students. Following Newark Charter School’s opening day of school in 2001, I mentioned to someone, “If my career ended today I would feel fulfilled.” Seeing children so happy, so proud to be here, even though their school was nothing more than rented trailers on a borrowed property, I knew that I was part of something special. Eighteen school years later, I retire with pride, gratitude and love for the children who breathed life into this school and for all the students who make Newark Charter School such a wonderful place now and for many years to come.

Forever grateful,

Gregory Meece

Las Americas ASPIRA Submits Modification Request To Add High School & Increase Enrollment

Rumors began circulating in the fall that Las Americas ASPIRA Academy would be submitting a major modification request to add high school grades.  What I didn’t count on were the huge amount of fallacies and grandiose boasting within the application itself. Continue reading

The Lies Greg Meece Says About Newark Charter School

Greg Meece runs Newark Charter School.  For 18 years, Newark Charter School is rated not only one of the top charter schools in Delaware but one of the top schools.  There is a multitude of reasons for this but it boils down to diversity.  At their public hearing for their charter renewal process, Meece made a comment that is sure to rile up the diversity crowd all over again.  Meece openly lied about his own school. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Mike Matthews Has Nothing To Apologize For”

It is the return of The Bygone Blogger!  This blogger of old has some more stuff to say about the controversy surrounding Mike Matthews and his DSEA resignation based on old blog posts Mike wrote.  In which we learn, once again, things are NOT always what they seem on the surface and some of the pitchfork throwers aren’t exactly innocent!  Take it away (again) Bygone Blogger! Continue reading

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

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

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

Continue reading

Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece On What NCS Is Doing For School Safety

A few days ago I put up a post about an alleged lack of intruder drills at Newark Charter School.  A few parents approached me and were very concerned.  Many denied the school never conducted these drills.  As such, I will be checking with schools in the future when parents come to me about these type of things.

Greg Meece from NCS issued a letter to parents about what both locations of Newark Charter have done to promote school safety:

Dear NCS Community:
Like all of you, I was deeply saddened to watch the news last week and see another tragic school shooting.  Our hearts go out to the community of that Florida high school for such a senseless and devastating loss of life.  As we grieve for the families of the students and teachers who lost their lives, we begin to think about the safety of our own school community.  I thought it would be comforting to share with you some of the things we at Newark Charter School have done, and will continue to do, to provide the best safety and security we can.
Our school has been fully compliant with the Comprehensive School Safety Omnibus Safety Act since its inception.  We are proud that we recently received a special award from the Department of Homeland Security to recognize our school being in 100% compliance with Delaware’s Omnibus School Safety Act. To be compliant, schools are required to:
  • Have a Comprehensive School Safety Plan (CCSP) that aligns with the Delaware Department of Homeland Security requirements;
  • The school’s CCSP, including rally points, building plans and other campus-specific information  is maintained on a secured server (Emergency Response Information Portal) that can be accessed by first responders;
  • We conduct monthly drills including but not limited to: fire dills/heightened security drills/bus evacuation drills, etc.;
  • We conduct at least two intruder/lockdown drills each school year;
  • We conduct at least two table top exercises (walk-through of Emergency Action Plans) each School Year).
We have upgraded our facilities and resources to protect our students.  For example, we reinforced key windows and doors, making them more resilient to forced entry and, in some cases, making them shatter-proof if hit by bullets.
We established a single point of entry in each of our three buildings, including lock-out systems that require either a school security badge (which all staff members are required to display at all times) or having an office staff member permit entrance to the school hallways by activating the door lock buzzer system.  This, of course, is only after proper identification is given or when we know the visitor and their purpose.  Visitors, then, receive badges as well.
We installed cameras in main entrances to monitor those entering and leaving.  We are currently adding approximately a dozen internal cameras as well.
This year, we marked all the outside classroom and office windows of our schools with numbers corresponding to the room numbers.  This is designed to aid first responders when they arrive on campus.
There has been an effort to pass legislation in Delaware that would require classroom door locks at the state’s public schools to be lockable from both inside and outside the room.  All Newark Charter School classroom already meet this goal.
All administrators, custodians, secretaries, counselors and other key staff members carry two-way radios.
We have a great partnership with the local police force.  For example, we allow the Newark Police Department SWAT team as well as State of Delaware law enforcement to use our buildings and grounds for their drills and trainings.  For many years, Newark Charter School has been used for police K-9 trainings at night.  Recently, we contracted with the City of Newark Police Department to provide ALICE training.
ALICE training has been used locally, including in Cecil County School District, with great results. The ALICE instructors provide interested businesses, schools, churches, etc., with active shooter/threat response training. Newark Charter School was able to help underwrite the costs associated with training the Newark Police Department officers so that they, in turn, can provide ALICE training to our school and to others as often as necessary.
We meet with our staff at the beginning of each year to go over our safety plans and to make sure everyone knows what to do.  Our students are amazing about knowing and practicing what to do.  I can’t rave enough about how smoothly they make our drills work.
Recently, we had a representative from Sandy Hook Promise present the “Start with Hello” and “Say Something” programs to our students. Both of these age-appropriate programs provide strategies for students to recognize and assist students who may be struggling as another strategy for preventing school violence. This compliments our long-standing anti-bullying efforts.
I wish I could push a magic button to make school violence no more, but the reality is that we have to work together and to be open to change when it is necessary.  I hope our nation’s leaders listen to our families and to the students.  The recent Florida incident requires that we continue to evaluate and update our plans and practices.  It requires time and resources, but I know you agree with me when I say that the safety and security of our students and staff is priority number one.

Sincerely,

Greg Meece
School Director

Thank you Greg Meece for getting this information out.  When it comes to school safety, there should be NO restrictions on keeping children safe.  I’m glad your schools are doing all they can.

Breaking News: State Bullies Christina Into MOU That Breaks The Law!

Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of Education almost had us.  They were THIS close.  In another 24 hours or so they could have gotten away with it.  Their plan to completely evaporate the Christina School District Wilmington student population will depend on the vote at the Christina Board meeting tomorrow night.  But they NEVER told us about the loophole.  Does a Memorandum of Understanding give a state Governor the power to “waive” a law?  I think not! Continue reading

Did I (Inadvertently) Cause Christina and The Delaware DOE To Get Sued?

A year ago today, I broke the Delaware education internet in half.  I revealed that the charters wanted more money from districts.  In reality, it came down to Christina vs. the 15 charters.  But I didn’t know that at the time.  But what I did do was break it and cause immense pressure to be put on then Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  So much he stopped the charter money grab.  As a result, both the Delaware DOE and Christina were victims of, what I believe, a frivolous lawsuit.  Of course it was all led by Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece.  I knew that the second I sniffed it.  Now they are doing it again with the Match Tax.  And Delaware is so stupid they will let them do it again.  I shouldn’t say Delaware, but the DOE.  It isn’t Bunting lighting the match, it is the same cast and crew from last year.  When are they going to stop this insipid love affair with charters?  Don’t they realize all they are doing is riding the wrong horse?  It has been a crazy year since then.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t look back on this and wonder how much I contributed to the eventual outcome.  Almost as if I was played the entire time…

Dave Sokola & Greg Meece Played All Of Us And They Are Laughing Behind Your Back!

Suckers!  Governor Carney vetoed the 5 mile radius bill.  Big deal.  We all knew he didn’t really have a choice.  But don’t think for one second Senator David Sokola and Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece didn’t plan all of this the second the bill went into circulation.  Did any of you think for one second Meece would give up his beloved 5-mile radius for NCS?  Come on!  This is Delaware Politics 101 folks!

This was never about Wilmington students.  This was ALWAYS about Newark Charter School.  They do NOT want anyone outside of their 5-mile radius crossing that line.  Sokola knew the bill had legs so he found the perfect amendment to kill it: exclude the Wilmington portion of Christina.  It would get all the civil rights activists going off and it worked like a charm.  Lest we forget, this is the same State Senator who messed around with the opt out bill every single chance he could.  How many of us were there when he scheduled many bills during a Senate Education Committee meeting and the opt out bill, House Bill 50, was delayed for a week?  Remember the whole “Assessment Inventory Task Force” crap?  That was him.  Remember the charter school audit bill which was fantastic under State Rep. Kim Williams’ original incarnation until he got his charter-dirty hands on it.  And what about House Bill 399, the bill that would have given teachers a choice of using the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other tests for their evaluations?  He put so much crap in his amendment and watered it down to nothing.  This is classic Sokola.

Don’t believe for one second that NCS had issues with transportation logistics.  They didn’t want the 5-mile radius to go away.  Period.  That’s all this was ever about.  I have no doubt Sokola was cheering me on when I wrote about how his version of House Bill 85 would result in a massive lawsuit against the state.  This is what he does.  He turns gold into poison ivy.  But all the clowns up in Newark keep voting him back in over and over again.

As for Meece, he is never going to change.  He loves the fact that HIS school is the “best” in the state.  He loves the fact it’s the biggest as well.  And he has stacked the deck with the sibling enrollment preference.  That way all his favorite families can keep bringing their kids there.  He might throw a prize our way by taking in some special education kids.  Make it look like he is trying.  But he isn’t.  He’s just playing the game.  And with Sokola by his side, he always wins.

Everyone on social media is talking about Carney and Wilmington.  How Carney did or didn’t help Wilmington kids with his veto.  Do you really believe Carney didn’t know what Sokola and Meece were up to the entire time?  See the game for what it is folks.  It isn’t about change.  It’s about the status quo.

Lucky for Sokola, he got to go on a cross-country bike ride with former Governor and good buddy Jack Markell.  They are somewhere in middle America right now, sweating their hineys off in spandex.  I have no doubt Meece is thinking “Yes, we win again!” while wondering if he should go for a threepeat on Blue Ribbon status so he can brag that they are 1 in 5 trillion schools who ever got the hat trick.  They played all of us for suckers, again.  And they will do it again.  As long as Sokola has his little amendment followers and enough whine to go with his charter cheese, this scene will play out again.  And again.  And again.  I don’t have a doubt in my mind that Meece and Sokola ever worried about this bill at all.  Gravy!

 

Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers

Delaware’s budget deficit hit a new stage last night when Christina School District students took over State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School. As well, Senator David Sokola said the issue with the 5 mile radius bill was about transportation. It was an evening full of dodged questions and skirting around the issues.  It was a night when things were as confusing as Twin Peaks and the Mighty Thor put her hammer down! Continue reading

Taking A Deep Dive At Newark Charter School & Christina School District: 5 Mile Radius, Greater Newark Area, & District (Including Wilmington)

Ask, and ye shall receive!  Whenever I put up an article about Newark Charter School and what I view as their low sub-group population percentages compared to Christina School District, I am asked to do closer comparisons.  That is absolutely fair and something I should have done a long time ago.  So I plead guilty on that score.  But sometimes wanting to know that information to shut me up isn’t always the best idea.  Especially when the proof is in the pudding.  Continue reading

Newark Charter School 5 Mile Radius Bill & Education Funding SHOULD Be The Center Of Focus At Education Forum Monday Night

Delaware State Rep. Paul Baumbach will be moderating an education forum Monday evening at Newark High School from 7pm to 9pm.  Questions will be asked of the following: Senator David Sokola, Newark Charter Head of School Greg Meece, new Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Christina Board of Education President Elizabeth Paige, and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.

Given the article on HS1 for House Bill 85 from yesterday, this forum could not come at a better time.  I challenge Greg Meece and Senator Sokola to explain WHY they didn’t want Christina’s Wilmington students included in the removal of the 5 mile radius legislation.  Yesterday, the Delaware House passed the bill with 27 yes and 13 no.

If you are able to get to this forum, I would strongly suggest doing so.  Especially if you are a parent of a Christina Wilmington student.

To clarify on the article from yesterday, I do not believe every legislator who voted yes on the bill is a racist.  I believe it was more political than anything else.  But, the unintended consequences of this bill will lead to more de facto segregation.

Education funding will also be a hot topic at this forum, as it should be.  I, for one, would like to know why the charters feel they should be able to keep their portion of the educational sustainment fund while local school districts don’t.  I would also like to know why there is talk that the charters will keep their transportation slush fund (extra freebie money they get to keep if they spend less than their budgeted transportation amount).

No Shared Sacrifice For Delaware Charters! They Get To Keep Their Portion Of Educational Sustainment Fund!

The Delaware Education Hunger Games just went up a new level.  The shot heard round the Delaware Education world when Governor John Carney put out his FY2018 proposed budget shook up the school districts.  But the part no one is talking about is the Delaware charter schools get to keep their educational sustainment funds.

The total for the educational sustainment fund is $28.15 million dollars.  Carney wants to cut $21,974.40 of that fund.  That amount is what goes to the local school districts.  The rest goes to the charters and there is NO recommendation in Carney’s budget to cut those funds for the blessed ones.  The rationale is the charters aren’t covered by the Match Tax.  But I will get to that part later.  Governor Markell actually wanted to keep the fund in his proposed budget for FY2018.  This means the charters would get to keep over $6 million dollars.

Meanwhile, Carney suggested the school boards could raise those funds via a match tax without referendum.  For arguments sake, let’s say school boards decide to go that route.  That would mean the charters could get not only the educational sustainment fund but also their local share of those match tax funds.  Since no local school board seems to relish the idea of taking up Carney on his idea, they are forced to get the funds elsewhere.  In many districts, teachers and staff are getting reduction in force notices.

It is absolutely disgusting and abhorrent the charters are able to keep this money.  I thought the charter school transportation slush fund was disgusting enough, but this is obscene.  All the angst and distress in the districts while the charters merrily set their budgets without a care in the world.  Sure, they might have to make some sacrifices, but I’m sure they can make up for it with the above-mentioned slush fund.  Why do the charters get every perk in the world while districts are made to suffer?

So where did this educational sustainment fund even come from?  To find out the answer to that, you have to go way back to the Governor Mike Castle days.  This was during a time when Delaware didn’t have the budget problems we are plagued with today.  There was actually an idea thrown into the air to cut property taxes entirely.  As Delaware does so wonderfully, they put together a group to see if this was possible.  John Carney was actually on this working group and was one of the chief voices against cutting property taxes altogether.  And that is where the fund came into being, through this group.  And now Carney wants to get rid of it, but only for the districts, not the charters.  Originally, the amount was over $50 million dollars.  But it shrunk down over the years.  There used to be a list for its intended use, but now it states these funds can be used locally for whatever they want.  Which means Carney’s statement about how it shouldn’t have been used as a permanent fixture to support teacher salaries is hogwash.

If you aren’t pissed off enough about the shenanigans going on with this budget, this should set you into a tailspin.  Unless you are actually a parent of a student who would benefit from this perk for your child’s school (aka, a charter school).  All the business officers in the school districts know this, and Mike Jackson, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget definitely knows this.  But this has remained under the radar for months now.  Until I found out today.

Do charter schools have a right to the match tax proceeds collected from Delaware school districts?  This is where it becomes a somewhat thorny issue.  Technically, no.  But the Christina School District settlement with the 15 charter schools set up a potential upcoming conflict where they could argue the merit of getting those funds.  From the settlement:

In particular, Plaintiffs are free to contend for fiscal 2018 and thereafter that Match Tax Revenues should be included in the calculation of Local Cost Per Student pursuant to Section 509. CSD is free to condent for fiscal 2018 and thereafter that Match Tax Revenues should not be included in the calculation of Local Cost Per Student pursuant to Section 509.

Why would any discussion of match tax funds appear in this settlement?  Unless they KNEW Carney would be putting this in his proposed budget.  And we all know it isn’t actually Carney creating this.  Most likely Mike Jackson.  More boon for charters.  And I just heard the charter school transportation slush fund WILL stay in the budget.  Time to get your voices heard Delaware and call out the State of Delaware for succumbing to the incessant lobbying of the Delaware Charter School Network.  It is time to get people like Greg Meece from Newark Charter School to shut up about his school’s great test scores and how they are recipients of the Blue Ribbon Award twice.  It is all based on superficial bullshit.  Anyone can rig the game and charters have been very proficient at that.  It is time to stop the Delaware charters from deciding education funding and policy in Delaware.  It is time for our legislators to stop voting on the basis of less than 20% of Delaware’s public education population and look at the needs of ALL our students.  Enough.  Our children are more important than these showmanship games.  I am not directing this at every single charter school.  I am directing this towards the lobbyists for the charters and the charter school leaders who have been doing this for decades.  They weaseled their way into Carney’s office and I see no signs of them leaving.  Time to make that happen!

Editor’s note: I don’t swear on here that much.  When I do, that means I am pretty ticked off!

Updated, 8:41am: In paragraph 3, sentence 3, I changed the word “would” to “could”.  At present, the charters have no claim to the match tax in Delaware.  It is my contention they are gunning for it very soon.

Greg Meece Stumbles In The Dark Trying To Explain Settlement (Again) To NCS Parents But Shines A Light On The Truth

New details emerged in the never-ending Christina-Delaware Department of Education-15 Charter Schools lawsuit/settlement thanks to Newark Charter School leader Greg Meece.  I guess now that the ink is dry on the settlement, people can say whatever they want, right Greg?  We shall see!

From the Weekly Bulletin sent to Newark Charter School parents yesterday afternoon:

Follow-up on the settlement letter

This will provide additional information and clarification about the recent settlement of the lawsuit filed by NCS and 14 other charter schools over what we considered to be funding errors which cost charter schools – and their students – a fair amount over the years. Because we are satisfied with the agreement reached over local funds and pleased with the new level of transparency created by the agreement, we are happy to offer the following clarifications:

– We stated that the general idea is that the property taxes paid by residents, which are initially held by the local school districts, should follow the child when families choose to enroll their children to a public charter or choice school in Delaware. We believe that, for whatever reasons, in the case of Christina School District (CSD) that was not being done. But we also concede that, as in most settlements, the district admitted no wrongdoing.

– We stated that the August decision was made by the Secretary of Education. Actually, the August decision was made by other Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) executives and Secretary Godowsky was not involved until later. In September, he reversed his Department’s earlier decision and we sued. 

– Finally, we said that “both CSD and DDOE agreed to cover the cost of the charter schools’ legal costs.” Let us clarify. In the complaint filed in court, we demanded an award of attorneys’ fees. During the negotiations, we pressed that same demand. The resulting agreement, while not mentioning the subject of attorneys’ fees, provides for a one-time payment of $150k from each defendant. Naturally, the plaintiffs are free to spend that one-time payment as they see fit and have decided to pay their legal fees with it, and we have been told that both DDOE and CSD are paying that amount directly to the charter schools’ attorneys. We are told, in CSD’s case, that payment is funded from “true-up” funds created by a switch in the method of calculating the share going to charter schools.

We hope these clarifications resolve any confusion about the settlement and want to reiterate its essence: both sides agreed to a sharing of local revenues that each believes represents fair compromise and charters will now be given the information in coming years to assure that fairness continues. We are pleased that the Department and CSD have approved the settlement and look forward to working with each in the future.

Ah, Greg Meece, you are crafty.  That is for sure!  So if I understand this correctly (as well as the thousands of readers who are probably sitting with a dropped jaw right about now), Secretary Godowsky did NOT know about the changes to the local funding formula.  Which is one of his job duties, to approve that formula by September 1st.  But one could presume, if no changes were presented to him, there would be nothing to approve if the old formula was used.  So can someone please tell me why the 15 charters named Godowsky personally in the lawsuit if they knew he did nothing wrong?  And it’s not like this is new news.  State Rep. Earl Jaques confirmed this in an email I published three months ago.

Greg Meece, are you telling me your attorneys willfully put something in a lawsuit they KNEW wasn’t true?  Or was this oh-so-little detail discovered after the lawsuit was filed?  Either way, it would have come up before the settlement was written.  But the settlement specifically gives details about Godowsky back-tracking on his decision.  But it was never a decision he made to begin with.  So this ENTIRE mess went down because Delaware Dept. of Education officials neglected to give their State Cabinet-level superior information that IS IN STATE CODE and they only have to pay $150,000 to the charters for “whatever they choose but we planned it ahead of time to pay the attorney fees“.  This seems VERY convenient.  Too convenient.  If this is not the very definition of a shakedown, I don’t know what is.  Maybe Secretary Godowsky should sue the fifteen charter schools for a frivolous lawsuit.  And Bob Silber.  And the Christina School District.  The only way Meece can say this wasn’t Christina’s fault is because of the nature of settlements.  People try to tell me what a great guy Meece is.  I don’t see it.  Someone who is okay with playing games with tens of thousands of student lives, staff members, educators, and taxpaying citizens is not in my definition of a good guy.

So we have Greg Meece, the same guy who got this snowball rolling down the hill to begin with, openly admitting this was all the DOE’s fault, but he is glad Christina and the charters could come up with a mutual agreement?  Are you out of your damn mind Meece?  So why was Christina even named in the lawsuit to begin with if this was all a colossal screw-up by the DOE?  IF I were the attorney for this, the only legal option would be to go after the DOE.  UNLESS I was already planning on a settlement.  With some other easter eggs thrown in for good measure.  Things like the tuition and match taxes.  Opening the door for them.  Very smart.  Very shady.   Very Delaware.  And 4 out of 7 Christina board members fell for it.  For now.  There is still some information that hasn’t come out yet Greg.  But I know it.  And it will.  Good luck with THAT weekly bulletin Greg!  But I do want to thank you for reading my article I put out last Monday based on your last missive to the NCS parents.  Had I not put that article up, would you be bending over backwards trying to “clarify” things with NCS parents?  I tend to doubt it.

To read the FULL NCS Weekly Bulletin, and learn all about the have to see it to believe it “Hour Of Code”, see below.

Greg Meece Letter To Newark Charter School Parents About Settlement Is Going To Stir Up Trouble

Greg Meece didn’t wait long.  We still don’t have verification that all the charter schools signed the settlement between the Christina School District and the 15 charter schools.  But Meece took his opportunity to brag and he did so with arrogance and a pompous attitude.  Yes, NCS parents, this is your not so humble leader.  I have no doubt this was Greg Meece’s favorite moment of the year.  But the big question surrounds the truth.  It was under the assumption the charter schools and their attorneys over at Saul Ewing offered the settlement.  Other sources have all parties working together over the Thanksgiving weekend to hammer it out.  But what Greg Meece states is something completely new.  And there is another downright dirty thing in this letter which was not written in the settlement the way Meece wrote it.  To me, that kind of negates the spirit of the settlement.  The settlement explicitly stated this was not a case of wrongdoing on Christina’s part, but Meece’s one sentence inclusion in here suggests otherwise.  That line is bolded for emphasis below.

As I was working on my article this weekend about Greg Meece and Newark Charter School, I went over a lot of articles pertaining to the lawsuit.  Why on earth would Christina offer to settle based on their own Legislative Briefing?  Furthermore, I don’t recall their board ever voting on action pertaining to the lawsuit.  I would imagine only the Christina board could direct their attorneys to negotiate a settlement.  The only vote they held about the lawsuit was the one regarding the actual settlement.  So someone is lying.  Is it Christina or Greg Meece?

Dear NCS Parents and Staff:

This regards the lawsuit that Newark Charter School, in conjunction with 14 other charter schools and four parents, filed against the Christina School District (CSD) and Delaware’s Department of Education (DDOE). The general idea of Delaware’s school finance law is that the property taxes paid by residents, which are initially held by the local school districts, should follow the child when families choose to enroll their children to a public charter or choice school in Delaware. In the case of CSD that was not being done. Charter and choice school students were not getting their fair share. The DDOE performed a detailed analysis of this past year’s funding between districts and charter schools. It concluded that CSD had excluded from charter schools more funds than it was allowed to exclude. Delaware law requires that the Secretary of Education make the final determination regarding the allowable exclusions from districts. In August, the Secretary of Education made his decision. This decision would have provided charter and choice students who live in the CSD approximately $450 more per student. In early September, over the charter schools’ objections, the Secretary reversed his own decision, due to outside pressures being made on him. This is when the 15 charter schools decided to sue both CSD and DDOE.

Both CSD and DDOE offered to settle the lawsuit before it went before the courts and the charter schools agreed to the terms of the settlement. Among the details of the settlement:

* The CSD now agrees that $5.5 million in revenue that had been excluded from the pool of funds shared among all students in the district, including those who attend our school, will now be shared with all charter and choice schools serving Christina students.

* The DDOE agrees to bring greater transparency to the process through which it determines each district’s Local Cost Per Student. DDOE is obliged to share information and seek input from charter schools as part of this process.

* We will be working with the CSD to examine whether opportunities exist to share resources to serve special needs students.

* Both CSD and DDOE agreed to cover the cost of the charter schools’ legal costs.

* In return, the charter schools agreed to relinquish claims on funds that may have been inappropriately withheld in past years.

As a result, the tax dollars that should follow your children to Newark Charter School will arrive for this school year and in future years. These funds will be put to good use here, where they belong and where they are needed.

I would like to thank you for your support as we worked through this legal process, and I’m happy to answer any other questions you might have. If you would like to see a full copy of the settlement, we will be glad to send you an electronic copy.

Sincerely,

Gregory Meece, School Director and the NCS Board of Directors

Excuse the hell out of me Greg Meece, but did you just write a letter to parents indicating that Christina broke the law even though the settlement you just signed clearly indicates otherwise?  I have to ask, what the hell is wrong with you?  You just violated your own settlement with this public letter.

Meanwhile, the Christina School District put out a press release on their own website today which doesn’t have a few of the things Meece mentioned in his letter:

Christina School District Signs Principled Settlement Agreement

The Christina School District has signed a principled settlement agreement to a Civil Action by 15 charter schools regarding the sharing of local property tax revenue.

The Christina School District has signed a principled settlement agreement to a Civil Action by 15 charter schools regarding the sharing of local property tax revenue. The charter schools filed the Civil Action asserting that the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), the Secretary of Education, the Christina School District, and the Christina School District’s Chief Financial Officer had breached Delaware law as a result of actions taken by the Department of Education in August and September. The agreement requires the approval of all 20 other parties to the suit, which states that settlement is made by December 2. The Christina Board of Education was required as part of the agreement to approve the agreement on or before December 1. The Christina Board voted to approve the agreement on November 30.
With the settlement, the Christina School District resolves the dispute over revenue generated by a 2003 Referendum passed by Christina taxpayers in a manner which honors the promise made to voters in 2003. In that Referendum, 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value was restricted for expenditures on: 1) Phase-in of full day kindergarten for academically at risk students; 2) Expansion of services for Gifted and Talented Program; 3) Expansion of services for Alternative Programs; 4) Technology replacement schedule. All parties in the civil suit have agreed that the 2003 Referendum revenue will be considered restricted, and may only be used to support these four programs as identified in Section II of the 2003 Referendum ballot. In addition, all parties further agreed that:
  • In the annual certification of Christina School District’s Local Cost Per Student pursuant to Section 509 (e), both the 2003 Referendum Revenue and CSD’s expenditures posted against those revenues will be ignored. In other words, such expenditures will be neither included in, nor excluded from, CSD’s Total Local Operating Expenditures. This is important because under the statutory formula for sharing local property tax revenue with charter schools, if such expenditures are included in CSD’s Total Local Operating Expenditures, the 2003 Referendum Revenue shared with the charter schools would not be subject to the restrictions imposed by the voters in 2003.
  • Beginning with Fiscal Year 17, the revenue generated by the 10 cent levy shall be divided by the total number of students residing in CSD and attending public schools in order to determine the per student share of the 2003 Referendum Revenue.
  • The parties agree that the dismissal shall include all claims that were brought or could have been brought, in the Lawsuit regarding FY’17 or any earlier fiscal year.
  • DOE will recommend a process to be used by the DOE in the future for determining Local Cost Per Student. In this process:
    • Districts will have the opportunity to request DOE approval for Exclusions from Total Local Operating Expenditures, with Districts providing justification for their request.
    • DOE will make a tentative determination responding to each requested Exclusion, together with DOE’s reasoning
    • Districts will have the opportunity to discuss with DOE its tentative determination before such determination is final and included within the annual certification
    • Prior to the annual certification, DOE will provide all charter schools with its tentative determinations, along with District justifications, and will afford the charter schools an opportunity to discuss such determination
    • DOE shall establish a schedule by which it proposes to meet each of the steps noted above.

 

The total amount of restricted funds generated by the 2003 Referendum is approximately $5.5 million. The agreement provides a mechanism for the appropriate portion of these funds to be applied to charter schools that educate Christina students, based on number of Christina students they serve. The portion of restricted funds for all Christina students attending charter schools is estimated to be $1.5 million. The Department of Education is required to establish a unique appropriation for these restricted funds, and is responsible for assuring that they are utilized only for the four programs as identified in Section II of the 2003 Referendum ballot.
For background information on this topic, please use this link to see the presentation made by the District at a Legislative Briefing for elected officials and the public held on September 7, 2016.
# # #

16 Who Defined 2016: Greg Meece & Newark Charter School

No one seemed to be the center of controversy in Delaware education more than Head of School Greg Meece, the face of Newark Charter School.  Greg Meece had a very busy year behind the scenes of many headlines.  It almost seemed like the ongoing district and charter school war centers around NCS and the Christina School District.  Here, in it’s entirety, is the story of Newark Charter School in 2016.  There are still 27 days left, so I may have to put some updates in before 11:59pm on December 31st!  If you see blue in the article, that is a link to an article I published on NCS or Greg Meece.

Before I get into the whole local funding formula fiasco, we need to look at other events Meece was involved in.  Prior to this year, I really didn’t write about NCS that much.  The school tends to keep things to themselves.  What happens at NCS stays at NCS.  That changed in February.  On February 5th, it was announced NCS would get a “distinguished Title I” designation for their students outstanding scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The only problem?  NCS isn’t really a Title I school.  The reward was based on the district surrounding them which has Title I schools all over the place.

The next day, I posted how a special needs girl was denied an opportunity to participate in NCS’ lottery.  This caused a massive outcry all over the state.  The NCS board, the previous fall, said any child who turned six after a certain date would not be able to participate in the lottery.  For children with developmental or other disabilities who may start school later, this would prevent those families for applying to NCS.  I had people email Greg Meece.  He responded to my email the next day.  and it eventually caused the school to change their mind.  The girl was let into the lottery but she did not win a placement.

A month later, I discovered NCS does not file IRS tax returns because of very vague loopholes from the IRS dating back to 1995.  I sent a tip to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office on this.  As well, I submitted a FOIA to NCS to which they responded very fast.  Nearly ten months later and nothing has come of the tip to the auditor.  I know they were investigating this because I received a call from the state auditor’s office about this.  When I called over the summer to find out that status of the investigation, I never received a confirmation that it was being worked on.

Things stayed relatively quiet until shortly after the school year ended.  Delaware Senator David Sokola nuked a great bill dealing with teacher evaluations in Delaware.  House Bill 399 was meant to undo some of the very damaging practices thrust open teachers from the state.  Sokola got involved with the bill and put an amendment on it.  One of the aspects of the amendment, the addition of parent surveys at the pilot schools, is something  Meece implemented at Newark Charter School.  The ties between Sokola and NCS just kept opening up like a can of worms.

As folks were getting ready for the 4th of July, I thought out loud about NCS, Senator Sokola, and the missing Kathleen Davies.  I wonder if NCS had anything to do with that.  Davies disappearance from the Auditor’s office hit mainstream media with a lot of details missing.  While NCS and Meece were not mentioned in that article, that didn’t rule them out on my suspect list for what happened to Davies.  State Rep. Kim Williams broke the news in comments on Kavips blog about a petty cash audit Davies had been working on that disappeared as well.  I went into a lot of detail and started naming suspects.  A few months later the mystery deepened what the petty cash audit turned into petty cash warning letters but NCS wasn’t involved.

While the Kathleen Davies mystery was simmering, I discovered NCS did away with the age restriction for Kindergarten applicants but they came up with a new policy that students entering Kindergarten could only apply once.  So if a child with developmental or other disabilities did spend another year in pre-school, and the parents applied to NCS before that, they could not apply the next year.  It was the same discriminatory package decorated in different wrapping paper.

After I received detailed breakdowns of every school district and charter’s payment allocations for Fiscal Year 2016, I began to take a closer look at NCS payments.  I found they spent an exorbitant amount on student body activities.  Only one district was higher than them.  This raised my suspicions that something funky was going on which led me to examine the funding for their “cafetorium” addition along with a STEM laboratory.  I didn’t find anything conclusive, but it was very ironic how numbers matched with other things.

By the end of August, as the school year started off nice and quiet, all hell broke loose.  The local funding formula was changing so charter schools would get more from the local districts.  I immediately pegged Greg Meece as the catalyst for this and dumped my feelings about NCS throughout the article.  Less than 24 hours later, Secretary Godowsky changed his mind on the change to the charter payments.  The next day I posed my theories on who was responsible for this at the Delaware DOE and openly asked Meece many questions about NCS.  I never did get a response from him.  I can’t imagine he is my biggest fan.  This led to a resurfacing of Greg Meece’s famous crab bucket analogy.  While all this was going on, Senator Sokola wrote a letter to the News Journal on his latest “discovery” for education.  Speaking of the News Journal, they wrote a very misleading article on the whole thing which prompted me to do even more research.  The President of the Christina board gave me the official news there would be no changes to the formula the next day.  But apparently Meece and NCS Board President had their own thoughts on the matter and wrote their version of events in a letter to NCS parents.  The true shock came the next day when a Senator Sokola email defended NCS and cast blame on Christina but I debunked a lot of his theories.  Then Christina sent a letter to parents.  For a week, NCS parents were coming out to defend their school.  Some of them got very nasty which prompted this response from me.  After a long ten days, I had to recap the whole thing and give some new information about district exclusions.  On September 7th, Christina held an open to the public legislative briefing to explain their side of the story and how the funding works with payments to charters.  I attended the meeting and recorded it.  Transcribing it was a bitch but it gave a ton of key information (which still makes my head hurt when the final outcome of this reached its climax this week).  I’ll have to see if I still have the recording to transcribe Part 2 of this meeting.  I assumed Christina argued their case so well it caused Secretary Godowsky to issue a letter to the legislators calling off the whole thing for this year.  Many assumed nothing would happen on this until the legislators returned in January based on Godowsky’s letter.

In the Spring, the General Assembly finally passed the Kilroy-inspired “All school boards must record” legislation.  For Newark Charter School’s very first audio recording, it was a whopping 16 minutes.  You can’t make this stuff up.  The next week, they won the Blue Ribbon School status from the U.S. DOE for their “outstanding” test scores (smelling a theme here?).  Senator Sokola got the spotlight treatment based on his upcoming General Election contest against Meredith Chapman so I felt obliged to showcase his very sad charter school legacy.  Of course NCS got a nod.

One would think after such a crazy month, NCS would try to stay out of the news.  Not the case.  The school ended September with a student sit-in.  Inspired by the U.S. Congress, students staged a sit-in when a teacher was fired over an incident with a student.  Instead of getting barbecued by the parents, the students jumped in on the comment roasting of this blog.  I actually admired the students for what some called “The Slappening”.  The teacher got her job back a couple of weeks later as Earth started spinning on its axis again.

On October 5th, Delaware found out the charter school response to Secretary Godowsky not moving forward with the change in the charter school payments from Christina.  15 charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  I got my hands on the actual filing which named all the schools and parties involved.  By this point, everyone knew it was NCS who started this whole thing which they confirmed in another letter to NCS parents.  I soon received the whole timeline for the shenanigans involving Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning.  This prompted me to look at some things that were very peculiar about this lawsuit.

A couple of weeks later, Delaware United made a three-part video series where they interviewed Senator Sokola.  Care to guess what the biggest topic was?  Education and Newark Charter School!

At the end of October, I found out that Newark Charter School was supposed to have an outreach plan to get more sub-groups in their school.  This was a condition of their major modification to start their new high school.  We are still waiting for this.

Last week, the Charter School lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE came back in a big way.  Christina’s board accepted a settlement with a 4-3 vote.  By the end of the week, the settlement leaked out before all the signatures were on paper.  Where did the leak come from?  Governor Markell’s office!

So there you have it: Greg Meece and Newark Charter School.  More controversy than Donald Trump at a rally for Democrats!  More scandalous than… I can’t think of anything…  I sure do hope 2017 is quieter for Newark Charter School.  They lost their isolationism label this year!

The Christina-Charter School Lawsuit Is Now Public!

That didn’t take long.  Three days ago, the Christina board agreed to the settlement.  Last night it went public.  Delaware Liberal has the whole thing in all its glory.  From what I’ve read, the district is off the hook for any back exclusions.  There will be a one-time payout for this year of $150,000 plus the per student allocation from a 2003 referendum that amounts to 10 cents for every $100 worth of assessed property value.  Christina will pay out the charter school payment part of the $5.5 million they received from the last fiscal year.   But going forward…

DOE will have to determine the exclusions and let the charters review them before the annual determination is made.  Tuition tax will now be a part of the local district payments to charter schools if the charter has comparable special education services to Christina.  Which explains why Newark Charter School took in a special needs child over the summer.  As the parent wrote in comments on this blog, this student was 17th on the wait list at NCS.  One day the parent got a call from the school and her child was in.  That would mean a student left and sixteen parents said no or left the school.  The parent did reach out to me to let me know NCS does not have a football team and that with students who may have moved played a factor.  As well, the parent states the school was not aware her daughter had special needs and had to scramble a week before school to make sure she got a one-on-one para.  They also said there are quite a few students at NCS with either Downs Syndrome or autism that have one-on-one paras.

The settlement also allows for both parties to claim or not claim exclusions from the Match tax.  Which means more headaches in the future.  I have to wonder how all the other school districts feel about part of their tuition tax now going to charter schools if the charters meet that “need”.  Is this why Appoquinimink hiked up their tuition tax last summer?  Did they know what the charters were planning back then?

This settlement releases the charter schools claims against Christina and their CFO, Robert Silber.  But they also filed against the Delaware Dept. of Education.  I don’t see language releasing the DOE.  Is their suit against the DOE still alive?

I would attach the Scribd document from Delaware Liberal, but the ink isn’t dry on the settlement yet.  Thirteen charters, the Christina board President, and Silber all signed.  That leaves two more charters.  Not a (legal) done deal yet.  But why aren’t all the signatures by the President of each charter board?   Some are.  Some are signed by the Head of School or a title similar to that.  But the board is the legal entity behind a charter school, not the Head of School.  I suppose it would depend on the ability of a Head of School to legally bind the corporation to this settlement.  I don’t have time right now to look through the bylaws of fifteen charter schools.  I would think an interim principal, like the one at Great Oaks, does not have that kind of authority.

Out of everything I’ve written about this whole Christina/charter school funding war, beginning at the end of August, as well as the countless other articles in Delaware media, one question still hasn’t been answered.  What made Greg Meece, Steve Dressel, and Joanne Schlossberg from NCS request a meeting with the Delaware DOE and Christina to discuss the local funding formula?  In other words, for 13 years, this 2003 referendum and the 10 cent thing was in play.  DOE signed off in it each year.  But Greg Meece found out about this earlier this year which prompted this whole thing.  Who told Meece about it?  Meece would have gone after this a long time ago had he known about it.  So who betrayed Christina?  It had to be someone with inside knowledge of the district’s finances.  Someone who knew a 13 year history of the finances.  Someone with a deep understanding of school finances.  Someone who had the motive and means and willingness to go after Christina.  Someone who didn’t care that this would affect tens of thousands of kids across the state.  Someone who didn’t care that telling Meece this would instantly cause him to bite the apple and unleash a lot of crap on the Delaware education world.  That is cold and unfeeling.  I am about 99.9% sure of who you are.  I’ve known for a long time.  I know how you like to play the long con.  I also know how you play people.  I know who your allies are and who your enemies are.  One day, your actions will come out.  And your justification for this does nothing.  Not when your sins will cause thousands of students who already had less to lose out even more.  You sold out the kids you claim to stand for.  It doesn’t balance any scales and it doesn’t even begin to absolve you.  You aren’t that crafty.  I saw you coming a mile away.

This is a shakedown no matter how you slice it.  The Delaware DOE, who approved the exclusions for all these years, gets the stiff penalty of having to do some more paperwork, something they thrive at already.  In the settlement, Secretary Godowsky escapes any blame by simply stating he wasn’t aware of the exclusions.  Which could very well be true since he wasn’t confirmed by the Delaware Senate until October, 2015.  But all the former Secretaries of Education would have known: Mark Murphy, Lillian Lowery, and Valarie Woodruff.  Why weren’t they named in the lawsuit if the charter schools had allegations going back to 2003?

I see this as just one more nail in the coffin of public education.  Now this opens the door for charter schools to get more funds from a referendum.  Funds earmarked for a district are now questionable.  Unless some shady deal went down at some point between 2003 and 2015, Christina is not to blame.  So why on earth would they settle?  I highly doubt their attorney fees would have climbed higher than the results of this settlement.  There is no possible way ninety minutes was enough time for their board to digest this settlement.  I read it last night and I still have many doubts.

The whole part about Christina paying $150,000 as a “one-time payment”?  That reeks of the amount Saul Ewing will charge the charter schools for their legal fees.  Wasn’t the Longwood Foundation going to pay for them?

This will be seen as a victory by many charter school parents, especially the ones at Newark Charter School.  They will point fingers at Christina and say “See, you settled, it was your fault.”  This is not a win for kids.

Agenda For Christina Board of Education Special Meeting On Potential Charter Settlement

While no news has surfaced about what the proposed settlement is between the Christina School District and the 15 charter schools suing them and the Delaware Dept. of Education, the board did release the agenda for the meeting tomorrow night.

christinabdmtg113016

The board is certainly in their legal right to have this meeting without seven days notice.  It sounds like some attorneys were pretty busy over the holiday weekend.  This bothers me, a lot.  Any settlement will give the charters what they want… more money.  It will ignore the history between Christina and the Delaware DOE.  The bottom line is Christina submitted exceptions to the local funding formula and the Delaware DOE approved them.  I think any settlement should be paid for by the Delaware DOE.  But what concerns me even more is what happens to future local funding formulas with this settlement.  Which could also impact every single school district in the state.  This settlement agreement has to be made public.  No questions asked.  The people deserve to know exactly what transpired with this whole thing, from start to finish.  It seems like the attorneys “negotiations” could put Christina in a bind.  Is the cost of the settlement more than the potential attorney fees should Christina prevail in the lawsuit?  I would tend to doubt it.  This seems like a hasty rush to resolve a complicated situation before certain powers in Delaware begin their terms.  This whole thing reeks of foul play.  For all the fuss Greg Meece started with this because Newark Charter School didn’t get funding based on Christina’s two failed referenda in 2015, offering a settlement shows severe weakness on the fifteen charter schools part.  Unless there was previous foul play involved long before this topic even came up earlier this year.  Either way, we want answers on this.  Transparency is a must!

Is A Settlement In The Works Between Christina And The 15 Charters?

Christina School District board member John Young announced on Facebook the Christina Board of Education will be holding an impromptu board meeting on November 30th.  The purpose of the meeting: to go into executive session and then briefly come out in public session to possibly vote on a settlement in the lawsuit filed against Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The suit was filed by 15 charter schools in early October who “claim” they weren’t getting their rightful share of Christina’s local funds and the Delaware DOE allowed this to happen.

I have a gazillion questions surrounding this.

Was this a settlement brought to Christina from the Charter cabal?

Was this a settlement offered by Christina to the Charter cabal?

Is the Delaware DOE part of this settlement?

Should Christina settle?

If they settle, would this cost less than a long drawn-out court battle and they won?

If they lost the court battle, would the judgment against Christina be less than what the charters want?

Why would Christina settle if their CFO Bob Silber said they did nothing wrong?

If they settled, is that an admission of guilt and would Silber resign?

What is the DOE’s role if this does go to court?

If Christina went to court and won could a judge rule the charters have to pay Christina’s attorney fees?

If Christina did settle would that mean the local funding formula would be how the charters wanted it at the beginning of the school year?

What do the legislators think of this news?

Is Betsy DeVos behind any of this? (of course not, but never hurts to ask)

If (and this is a BIG IF) Dr. Robert Andrzejewski becomes the next Delaware Secretary of Education, would this be seen as him clearing the deck for his stint in Dover?  Would it be ethical for him to even entertain a settlement if this is the plan?

Christina doesn’t have an agenda up for this emergency meeting at this point, but I would guess it is coming shortly.  As I reported a while ago, it appears the Longwood Foundation is paying for the charter school cabal’s attorney fees.  And if I know the ringleader of all this (think Greg Meece), I can’t picture him wanting to all of a sudden settle on this.  Could a third-party (say, a recently elected Governor John Carney) have reached out to everyone involved and basically said “work this out, I don’t want to start my stint with all this in the air”?

I need more details on this.  I think Christina’s board should let it ALL out in their “brief” public session on Wednesday night.

The Kathleen Davies Mystery Deepens As Charter School Petty Cash Letters Come Out & Many Charters Get Sue-Happy

Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many.  Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night.  They showed some very extreme violations of state code.  As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies.  These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools:  Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler).  These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released.  But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring.  Now we can clearly see why.

Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive.  The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”?  That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.

We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well.  We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office.  It could be a combination of any of these people.  It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.

Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection.  That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett.  When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders.  Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity.  Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware.  Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican.  Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters.  I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.

 

Odyssey Charter School:

  1. petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
  2. 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
  3. 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
  4. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83

Delaware Military Academy:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
  3. checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
  4. 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
  5. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
  6. failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”

Charter School of Wilmington:

  1. had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
  5. had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
  6. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11

Sussex Academy:

  1. 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
  2. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95

 

So let me get this straight.  Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture?  And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters?  That were NEVER released to the public, until now?  And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky.  All charter school leaders and board presidents.  My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools.  As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office.  As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program.  But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:

We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible.  Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.

So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable.  She followed the procedure.  Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless.  Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock.  A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well.  But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner.  And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky?  How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law?  Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner?  This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.

This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware.  They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues.  We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb.  One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas.  They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders.  They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that.  If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.

This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula.  I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course.  As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit.  They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen.  Which they did.  Delaware is a very corrupt state.  If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked.  There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt.  If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.

But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit.  One Kathleen Davies.  The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections.  One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS.  While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed.  Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions.  NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out.  It had to disappear.  We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires.  But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe.  It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements.  But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies.  Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact.  I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.

Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office.  This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.

She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.

Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor.  What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts.  By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year.  There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.

Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.

All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law.  But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school.  Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether.  Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this.  Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way.  As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September.  That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.

At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies.  If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here.  This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:

  • 515 Oversight and revocation process.

(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.

(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner.  Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware.  Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing.  Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality.  They are what outside interests want.  These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.

This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity.  As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this.  As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors?  I believe it is time to find out.  It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances.  Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware.  If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.

In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:

Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell

Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos

Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli