News Journal Lacks Integrity And Ethics With Coverage Of State Auditor Race

Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”.  The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies.  That article appeared in print today.  It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store. Continue reading

Exclusive: The Kathleen Davies Mystery Solved! What Role Did Tom Wagner, The Delaware DOE, & The News Journal Play?

For over two years, Delaware citizens wondered why Kathleen Davies was put on leave by Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner.  Now, finally, the truth can be told. Continue reading

Letter Sent To Legislators About Day Treatment Centers Raises Concern About Student Data Privacy

The News Journal article on what would have amounted to closure of Delaware day treatment centers until the State of Delaware reversed course mentions an email sent to legislators about the situation.  But the article by News Journal reporter James Fisher only touched on part of the email.  I want to give credit to Fisher for what was undoubtedly a confusing day with so much changing on this story.  Several legislators forwarded this email to me and I feel it is something the public deserves to see.  What concerns me are some of the new treatments that will be provided in schools.  These may not be covered under the HIPAA law for medical privacy if they take place in an educational setting.  I haven’t done enough research (yet) to determine how effective these treatments are for patients, but what are they taking the place of?  Is this a question of Medicaid funding and federal mandate or what is best for the outcomes of the children and teenagers in getting the best care possible?

Before I get to the email sent to the legislators, the News Journal corrected the article since the original one from noon today.  In the original, it cited a representative from Indian River School District who stated all Delaware Superintendents received an email on August 26th notifying them of the upcoming Medicaid changes with day treatment centers.  They took out that part, verified they (James Fisher) saw the email, but added this in:

“I’m not aware of any other place for them to go at this point,” said Bruce Kelsey, executive director of Delaware Guidance Services, which serves 24 children at a time in Kent and Sussex counties, in an interview hours before DSCYF sent the legislator letter.

His organization, he said, was preparing to have to re-assign or lay off employees who worked in day treatment.

“It’s heartbreaking, of course. It’s very tough. It’s been a good program,” Kelsey said.

Then on Thursday, Kelsey said he’d been notified that DGS’s funding for the program — making up about one-twelfth of the DGS budget — would not end in November after all.

Dawn Thompson, a spokeswoman for the department, said early Thursday afternoon the department had not made any decision to cut off program funding for day treatment. When Medicaid’s support of the programs ended in July, she said, the department made up the difference with state funds.

“We’re not reversing. No decision had been made to stop anything,” Thompson said.

Asked why Delaware Guidance Services believed the funding for its day treatment program was due to expire, Thompson said: “That must have been a misinterpretation.”

Later on Thursday, Thompson provided an Aug. 26 email from the department to school districts saying, in part: “Day treatment as previously structured will not be provided after December 2016.”

Clarifying her earlier comments, she said: “I do not believe I had been made aware of a communication to service providers detailing an end date.”

Confusion abounds!

This is the entire email sent to the legislators last night which matches verbatim for the part that was cited in the News Journal article today.

Dear Legislators,

There has been concern expressed about the future of day treatment for children in Delaware, and I’d like to give you some information that may be helpful to you and your constituents.  Over the next few months, we will be offering opportunities for people to come together to discuss how we can best serve the children and families in our state. We want feedback and ideas from all our various stakeholders including families, educators, providers, and community partners.

In the meantime, PBH will continue to offer mental health services, including day treatment if appropriate, to children and youth who receive Medicaid benefits or are uninsured.  Also, PBH will continue to offer services ranging in level of intensity from traditional outpatient services through in-patient hospitalization.  Every treatment option currently available to children and families will remain an option going forward until the stakeholders have been engaged and the system is ready for a transition.  As before, treatment will be individualized, flexible, and adapted to meet the needs of the child and family.

By way of background, I’d like to tell you about what we’ve done to enhance community and family based services for our children and families.  These types of services are provided to our clients without causing a disruption to their already established community connections such as school or sports teams.   The new services are supported by research and have been effective with children, youth and families across the country and in contiguous states. As we speak to stakeholders in the coming months, we will be focusing and seeking feedback on the benefits of these new services.  In particular, we would like to discuss whether the treatment available through these programs is more likely to result in better outcomes for children and their families than some existing options, including day treatment programs.

The community based treatment options are things like Multisystemic Therapy (MST), which is a home-based intensive family and community-based treatment that addresses multiple aspects of serious conduct related behavior in adolescents. MST typically targets chronic, aggressive youth who are at high risk of out-of-home placement.

Another new option is Functional Family Therapy (FFT).  FFT is a short-term, family-focused, community-based treatment for youth who are either “at risk” for, or who manifest, antisocial behavioral problems such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, violent acting-out and substance abuse disorders.

A third type of service added to our continuum is one called Family Based Mental Health Services.  These are designed to serve children between 3 and 17 years of age and their families (parents, guardians, caretakers and siblings). These children have a serious mental illness or emotional disturbance, are at risk for out-of-home placement into residential treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals or other settings. The focus of treatment is on the child and family system. Family Based Mental Health Services treat these children and adolescents in their homes, communities and schools thus allowing the youth to remain in the home.  Services are available 24 hours per day and 7 days a week via on call therapist and include crisis intervention as a part of the service.

These are just three of the services that will soon be available to clients in all three counties.  Additionally, the families will also be able to benefit from various therapeutic supports which can be available in the home and school in conjunction with other medically necessary treatment services.

We would be happy to speak with you or your constituents regarding our enhanced range of services, and our approach to care management.   Our commitment continues to be to the children, youth and families of our state.

Please feel free to contact PBH Director Susan Cycyk at susan.cycyk@state.de.us or contact her office at 302-633-2600.  She will be happy to share updated information as it becomes available as well as information regarding our other school-based programs including the elementary school Family Crisis Therapists and the middle school Behavioral Health Consultants.

Sincerely,

Steve 

Steven E. Yeatman

Chief Policy Advisor

Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families

1825 Faulkland Road

Wilmington, DE 19805

SLC N300

steven.yeatman@state.de.us

Office – (302) 633-2505

Editor’s note: The email did contain the cell phone of the PBH Director but I took that out for her privacy as that was given to legislators.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services clearly states what is covered under HIPAA and what is under FERPA in the following information from their website:

The school is not a HIPAA covered entity.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule only applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that transmit health information electronically in connection with certain administrative and financial transactions (“covered transactions”). See 45 CFR § 160.102.  Covered transactions are those for which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has adopted a standard, such as health care claims submitted to a health plan.  See the definition of “transaction” at 45 CFR § 160.103 and 45 CFR Part 162, Subparts K–R.  Thus, even though a school employs school nurses, physicians, psychologists, or other health care providers, the school is not generally a HIPAA covered entity because the providers do not engage in any of the covered transactions, such as billing a health plan electronically for their services.  It is expected that most elementary and secondary schools fall into this category.

The school is a HIPAA covered entity but does not have “protected health information.”  Where a school does employ a health care provider that conducts one or more covered transactions electronically, such as electronically transmitting health care claims to a health plan for payment, the school is a HIPAA covered entity and must comply with the HIPAA Transactions and Code Sets and Identifier Rules with respect to such transactions.  However, even in this case, many schools would not be required to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule because the school maintains health information only in student health records that are “education records” under FERPA and, thus, not “protected health information” under HIPAA.  Because student health information in education records is protected by FERPA, the HIPAA Privacy Rule excludes such information from its coverage.  See the exception at paragraph (2)(i) to the definition of “protected health information” in the HIPAA Privacy Rule at 45 CFR § 160.103.  For example, if a public high school employs a health care provider that bills Medicaid electronically for services provided to a student under the IDEA, the school is a HIPAA covered entity and would be subject to the HIPAA requirements concerning transactions.  However, if the school’s provider maintains health information only in what are education records under FERPA, the school is not required to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule.  Rather, the school would have to comply with FERPA’s privacy requirements with respect to its education records, including the requirement to obtain parental consent (34 CFR § 99.30) in order to disclose to Medicaid billing information about a service provided to a student.

In 2011, FERPA was changed to allow student information to go out to the following according to the final regulations from the U.S. DOE:

(6)(i) The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to:

(A) Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests;

(B) Administer student aid programs; or

(C) Improve instruction.

Shortly after the 2011 changes to FERPA, the blog Utahns Against Common Core asked the following:

Why would the federal government want to track genetic and medical information coupled with educational information in a cradle to grave longitudinal database (which Utah has implemented)? Why is the Gates Foundation funding biometric tracking? Why is the Gates Foundation co-hosting the London International Eugenics Conference with Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) next month? Why would the Department of Health and Human Services under Kathleen Sebelius (responsible for the FERPA changes listed above) be offering $75 million in grants for schools to open health clinics inside their schools away from parental oversight? Why did the Gates Foundation sign a 2004 agreement with UNESCO (U.N. Education arm) to create a global education system and then pay nearly $20 million to the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State Superintendents Organization to prompt them to create Common Core?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the federal government is in the business of control and not education. Why aren’t Utah leaders moving to protect Utahn’s from these overreaches of the federal government? Schools will become the ultimate laboratories in fulfillment of Marc Tucker’s dream for creating central planning for the American workforce.

Why indeed… Do I trust these therapies for students coming into schools?  I don’t know.  They could very well be very good therapies.  What I don’t trust is how the data from these school-based services could filter out.  This would be very personal medical information.  I don’t trust anything involved with the complete redesign of education by folks like the Gates Foundation.  Control is slipping away at a very fast pace without the ability of the public to have advanced knowledge of all these steps taking place over the past five to six years.  They will gather “public input” on all these changes when they should have done that in the first place.

Whether Delaware intended this in the first place is not known, but given all the information and research I have seen, I can only guess that this was the intention.  At the very least, there are far too many state agencies involved in this situation with the day treatment centers: DOE, DHSS, DSCYF, and lord knows who else.  But it almost seems as if they create a scenario, like this one, where they know parents will openly revolt about changes to the mental health system in the state, react by creating a “public comment” period, and wind up implementing new policies and legislation based on what they want.  I’ve seen this in the Department of Education too many times to count, and it looks like our Department of Health and Social Services is doing this.  Or maybe they always have and I just wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve written about private information getting out into the hands of outside companies before.  I wrote at length, ironically enough, about the Medicaid Reimbursement program and a company called Public Consulting Group (PCG).  This was in regards to the reimbursements the state gets for providers like Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, or Psychologists to name a few when they provide special education services in schools.  I wrote the article on PCG and the Delaware DOE over two years ago.  PCG is still the vendor for the state Medicaid reimbursement program as well as other contracts with the Delaware DOE, including the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities Strategic Plan.

With today’s plethora of education think-tanks, non-profits and for-profit education companies, this opens a goldmine of student information that is allowed to go out.  While this information does not contain personally identifiable information and is based on a students state-assigned identification number, that research can go back to the State DOE who could easily create a birth to 21 tracking system for students.  Parents need to wake up and demand FERPA is restored to its pre-2011 levels before any chance of protecting their kids personal information is gone forever.

Another education blogger, Gadfly On The Wall, wrote an excellent article earlier today aptly titled “The Child Predator We Invite Into Our Schools” with great detail about the upcoming changes in education and the student data mining portion of what is going on.  I don’t see what he talks about and what I’m talking about as two different things.  They are pieces of a huge violation of privacy rights going on in our schools.  Wake up parents, wake up…

The Smear Campaign At The Delaware Auditor’s Office & What The News Journal Didn’t Tell You

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.