As announced about an hour ago, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy opted out of renewing their charter in a letter to the Delaware Department of Education. While a specific reason was not given, my hunch is the decision was made due to low enrollment. The letter was dated October 1st, the day after the September 30th count in Delaware which determines funding for all Delaware public schools.
The school has certainly gone through enrollment woes since they opened. In the 2014-2015 school year, they had 246 students. After going on formal review in the Spring of 2015 based on their April 1st count, they were put on probation. Their enrollment for the 2015-2016 year fell to 224. Last Winter, they submitted a major modification to lower their enrollment and drop 5th grade. This modification was approved by the State Board of Education last March. They were up for charter renewal this fall, but apparently the board made the decision for themselves.
The all-boys charter school opened in August of 2011. The school had their fair share of discipline incidents as well as higher populations of African-Americans, low-income, and students with disabilities. In January of 2015, Jack Perry resigned as the original Head of School. He was replaced by Cordie Greenlea, a former Christina and New Castle County Vo-Tech employee.
The school never had any major scandals like some other charters in Wilmington, but based on their student population with high needs, the school never seemed to find its footing. Sadly, this is happening more and more in Delaware. The charters that service students with severe needs are the ones that shut down. Pencader, Reach, Moyer, Delaware Met, and now, Prestige Academy. Meanwhile, charters that get all the rewards and accolades that don’t have demographics anywhere close to the districts around them, continue to thrive. It isn’t working. For the students in Wilmington that are shuffled around city schools… it can’t be good for them.
The only heat I ever got from the school was based on an article I wrote from when Jack Perry resigned. But for the most part, they were quiet and did their thing. At the end of the day, they opened the school hoping to make a difference for minority city students. For those in Delaware who think all schools should be charters, there is a lesson to be learned here. If all schools were charters we would be seeing dozens of charters closing each year. We have become so obsessed with test scores we have lost sight of what truly matters… the students.
I’m sorry this school closed. I never like to see any school close because of the severe disruption it puts students and their families through. While Wilmington still seems to have a charter moratorium for any new charters, it didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving several charters in the area for major modifications which increased their student enrollments. Perhaps Prestige Academy would’ve had a fighting chance had the State Board followed the spirit of the legislation behind the moratorium.
Delaware has to do better by its students, especially those in our city schools. I don’t believe having an influx of community organizations coming into our schools is the answer. We have to increase funding for the schools that need it the most. We need to stop with the slush money, in both charters and districts. The excuse of “grant money” being allowed for a specific purpose is losing its meaning. That money would be better off going to schools that need it more. I am wary of all that the Every Student Succeeds Act has to offer. So much of it is more of the same, just with more outside organizations coming into schools and the promise of what amounts to an eventual digital education for all. Something has to give. But our State Board and the Delaware DOE has to take a lot of the blame for this. I have no doubt they were following whatever Governor Markell told them. They play games with children’s lives with their wax-on/wax-off charter school agendas. It is killing Delaware education!