In an article on Delaware Public Media concerning the status of the charter school audit bills, State Rep. Earl Jaques spun a web of lies about State Rep. Kim Williams, the sponsor of the bill. He gave a quote to reporter Sarah Mueller stating Rep. Williams never approached him about the bill. But Williams didn’t take it lying down. Nor should she. Continue reading
Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down. But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading
After the News Journal reported yesterday that Design Thinking Academy was closing a week earlier than expected, new documents showcase the amount of cover-up that was going on at the Delaware charter school that won $10 million dollars from the XQ Institute. The cover-up concerned a federal grant for funding that allegedly involved fraud by at least four employees who were terminated for their actions. Continue reading
We can’t celebrate successful schools that don’t celebrate diversity, period.
During the State Board of Education meeting tonight, a fascinating conversation took place concerning diversity at Newark Charter School. While Delaware Charter Schools Network Executive Director Kendall Massett did not say a word during the talk, she did something that exhibited a distinct brand of white privilege that had to be seen to be believed. Lucky for me, I saw it. Continue reading
Tonight, in a half hour part of their monthly meeting, the Delaware State Board of Education approved seven Delaware charter schools to be renewed. Continue reading
I warned them. Many times. Sit at the table and you will be on the table. The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole. By who? Continue reading
I just saw a video of the entire Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security board meeting from this evening. Since I’m the only blog (or media at this point) really writing about DAPSS these days, I feel it is safe to assume Board President Margie Lopez-Waite was talking about “the blog”. But an even bigger question is where the Delaware Charter School Network was? Isn’t their job to support charter schools? Where was Kendall Massett?
Margie did all the talking for the entire board. She played a game of bait and switch with the members of the audience. On one hand, she said she became the “scapegoat” for the slew of termination notices that went out Monday. She said Head of School Herb Sheldon played a direct role in that. She is trying to make it sound like those were his decisions to make and carry out. But then, on the other hand, she has the board pass a motion to revisit those terminations. She said, “A school can’t function if we don’t let the leaders lead”. But she is attempting to play to the crowd.
In terms of the DAPSS programs going away, Margie said emphatically they are not going away. But she said several times she wants to essentially marry DAPSS and her long-term goal of having an ASPIRA high school. That is her vision. No one else is screaming for that vision. Do not let her fool you. She saw an opportunity and struck.
“When I look in the mirror, I know who I am…And I hope that one day you guys learn the person I am. Cause I have no agenda here. I have no motivation other than helping children. So you can read all you want on the blog. You can get your information from those sources but they’re all completely wrong. That person doesn’t know me. They are just trying to feed you information. “
You are absolutely right Margie. I don’t know you. I’ve seen you a handful of times prior to your involvement in DAPSS. I’ve never written about anything big at ASPIRA as I have other Delaware charter schools. But what you seem to forget is the nature of this blog. I don’t pull stuff out of the air. It comes to me. From multiple sources. If I have nothing to write about, I don’t write. Plain and simple. And yes, I am trying to feed information. What is the purpose of this blog if it isn’t to inform? I don’t get paid. I could care less if 10 people read this or 5,000. I’m just getting it out there because once upon a time I needed information. Guess where I found a lot of it? Not in mainstream media articles. I found it on blogs. From people that were there. From comments on blogs. From what I heard, YOU didn’t know a lot of the staff that were fired the other day either. In fact, one staff member pointed out how you had never once said hello to him during your many visits to the school.
You said that less than 20% of the teachers were cut. But at the same time you said other teachers “resigned” because they weren’t able to take alternative positions. When you tell a full-time teacher they have to become a part-time teacher and they can’t afford that, you aren’t offering them an opportunity. You are basically saying “you mean nothing but I don’t have the guts to just come out and fire you so I’ll let you quit first.” Which, in my opinion, is extremely scummy. So if those people are getting the “demote or leave” slip, what does the percentage come out to factoring that in Margie? I get the financial perspective and sometimes there is fat to be trimmed. But we both know this was more than that. Don’t try to downplay it at a board meeting. Say those numbers in public including staff members.
You sit there and say you have no agenda or motivation while at the same time you are telling people who were just screaming at you that you want to merge DAPSS with your ASPIRA high school. You say you don’t want to interfere with the Head of School but you effectively took over the board, got folks who you KNOW will vote with you (hello Joanne Schlossberg from Newark Charter School), and all of a sudden pink slips are going out left and right. You talked about the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and how you wished folks came down to Dover. I did. I was there. I heard you say you were going to make tough decisions people were not going to like. Not the board. Not the Head of School. But you. Not once did I hear a damn thing about your plan to merge DAPSS and this ASPIRA high school. I heard the rumors that you have always wanted that. Nor did you mention this HUGE need to have Spanish and Chinese programs at DAPSS. So don’t try to spin this as if you are some scapegoat. You initiated all of this. Like you are the damn superhero that “saved the school”. You didn’t save anything. You are an opportunist who saw a chance to get your precious dual language high school on the cheap without just doing it yourself. And you pissed off a ton of people along the way. I don’t need to know you. I need to listen, and hear, and report. You also don’t know me. Nor have you ever made a point to. And I’m okay with that.
As for the part where she started conversing with a parent DURING public comment IN SPANISH, that happened when the father stated he was Puerto Rican like her. She began speaking in Spanish to him but he shot her down and explained that even though he knows the language he speaks English in his house and his kids do as well. He said Spanish is NOT the most important language in the world. But when folks are complaining about having dual language programs at their school, that probably isn’t the best time to start talking in Spanish during a board meeting when someone else is giving public comment. The fact I have to point this out speaks volumes!
Lopez-Waite listened to what parents had to say. She took the jabs and expressed her opinions about them. But never once did she say anything about reconsidering HER vision for an ASPIRA high school. Even though the parents, former students, and current students loudly said they didn’t want the current programming diluted by HER vision. When you fail to truly listen and act on what you are hearing, by ignoring the will of the people (and that audience was the DAPSS family), you disrespect them.
Did DAPSS need changes? Well, yeah, they were under formal review and about to get shut down. The only thing that shocked me about all that is how long it took the Delaware DOE to initiate that formal review. But Lopez-Waite came in like a bear and wanted to tear the camp apart. And she did. Take responsibility for your actions. Own them. Be accountable. That’s what we want our students to learn. But when the adults can’t do it, how the hell do you think the students will?
When you have a “vision”, it is often a coin toss. If you fail to see the other side of the coin, you can’t be shocked when that coin comes up tails. That’s exactly what happened with Margie Lopez-Waite tonight. She underestimated parents, staff, and students. She assumed it was the same crowd she has at ASPIRA. It backfired big time! With this crowd, you wouldn’t dare pull your next move, which was to make yourself Head of School at DAPSS. They would have fileted you alive and you knew it. Which was why the board meeting was cut short before you could even get through the agenda.
And once more, for the record, where’s Kendall?
Delaware State Representative and Chair of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Earl Jaques released the final report of the school district consolidation task force today. The report, seen below, does NOT recommend consolidating school districts based on “findings” that it would not save a substantial amount of money. It does, however, give recommendations regarding shared services among school districts. This report, in my opinion, is missing a TON of information! Continue reading
In a recent email to parents, the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked parents to donate money to keep them going. They have been around for well over a decade now and they have never tried to raise funds like this to my knowledge. They normally receive funds from the Delaware charter schools that send annual dues and grants from other non-profits like the Rodel Foundation or the Longwood Foundation.
As we end the week, we begin something new! As the only Charter Support Organization in Delaware, the Delaware Charter Schools Network advocates for and supports all of our schools – but as I have told you all before, we cannot do it alone. We need support too. To that end, today we are launching our first-ever crowdfunding campaign! Our goal is to raise a total of $20,000 to help us with programming that we provide.
Because it is our first campaign, we thought it might be easier to break this into milestones – and our first is to raise $5,000 in the first week. Would you consider becoming one of our first supporters to help make it happen?
While $20,000 doesn’t seem like a ton of money for a non-profit, I have to wonder what the sudden need is for extra money? Did the rent go up at 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington? Did they lose funding from one of their grants? Are some charter schools deciding not to pay their dues? Did their lobbying costs go up?
On the website for this campaign, it talks about how DCSN holds the Public School Choice Expo each year up in New Castle County. It appears they will have two in New Castle County, one in Kent County, and one in Sussex County this year as well. The campaign, hosted by a company called Funderbolt, isn’t listed on the DCSN website which I found rather odd. I would think they would put a link to it on there as well if they need this money so bad. Even more odd, for a crowd-funding organization devoted to raising funds for schools, they can’t even spell the word “philanthropy” right.
To date, the campaign received three donations totaling $75.00.
While it is certainly legal for DCSN to hold this kind of campaign, and other organizations like the Delaware PTA rely on parent dues for their existence, this kind of outreach is unprecedented. Is this a sign that the charter world in Delaware is struggling? Or did Kendall Massett see the cash-cow that is Basis Charter Schools in Arizona where they ask parents for $1,500 a year to “support teachers”?
The Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the charter school application for the Sussex Montessori School this evening with a 6-0 vote. The second charter school in Sussex County will open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. However, there were some conditions for the approval and should the charter school not meet those conditions, their charter would be revoked.
The two big conditions dealt with student enrollment and an actual facility. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the charter school must have 80% of their enrollment by May 1st, 2019. As well, they must have an actual facility in place. Currently, the school has not made a firm decision on a building or even an actual location in Sussex County.
The enrollment decision could be tricky. In the past, as was seen in the case of Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School in 2015, they were not at their 80% enrollment numbers by May 1st of 2015, a mere four months before they opened. This caused both to go under formal review. While they met those numbers and escaped charter revocation, they did go through the formal review process first. Bunting’s decision to revoke the charter if that 80% is not met caused Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett to immediately question the decision. I will have to check Delaware state code on this one!
This will be the second Montessori charter school in Delaware. First State Montessori Academy, located in downtown Wilmington, opened in 2014.
At the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover, the Charter School Accountability Committee recommended Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security stay open for another school year with very stringent conditions. At that point, Colonial’s Board of Education could very well decide to take over their charter. Queen Margie once again made it all about her. But the discussion that reached this point was very intense. Much more information here than you will find in the Delaware DOE press release. Continue reading
In her resignation letter, former Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security Board of Directors President Sherese Brewington-Carr expressed a desire for the charter school to close. As well, she opened a can of extreme whoop-ass on Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett. Five days later, the school and board went through their first meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee and went through a very intense meeting. Las Americas Aspiras Academy Head of School Margie Lopez-Waite lambasted the school in the meeting while begging CSAC to keep the school open another year. Continue reading
Last night, I attended an education meeting that was very different. It was a very odd group of folks getting together in one room to talk about things that affect all Delaware schools. It was a mixture of people who represented two different sides of public education. Continue reading
The Delaware Charter School Network became involved with the firestorm at Thomas Edison Charter School and that can only mean one thing: Kendall Massett is now in charge. The last time she entered the fray like this it resulted in Family Foundations Academy having their board completely gutted when the Eastside Charter School board took over back in January, 2015. I was able to find out a lot more about the school’s “foundation” account and that is the biggest farce of them all! Meanwhile, the school has violated FOIA many times through this and they are about to do the same tomorrow. Continue reading
It’s been a while. At least for me.
I haven’t been blogging as much. Like I’ve said before, sometimes you have to take a break and recharge your batteries. But it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening offline or in sidebar conversations. These are just some of the things I’ve seen and heard the past few weeks: Continue reading
I don’t have all the details yet, but the Delaware State Board of Education is being held for another year in the Delaware Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee. There are several areas of concern the committee still has with the State Board of Education. I also heard someone from the State Board of Education named John Marinucci as the State Board’s contact person for all Delaware school boards. Marinucci is the Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association. Only 15 out of the 19 school districts in Delaware belong to that organization. None of the Delaware charter schools do either. So how could Marinucci possibly represent all the school boards to the State Board of Education? Anyone who has been around the State Board of Education knows who acts as a liaison between Delaware charter school boards and them- Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.
As soon as I know more, I will update this article. I heard this on the fly from several people while I was down at Legislative Hall today. Actually, I heard a lot of things down there today! All I can say is get ready for an absolutely crazy time from now until June 30th (July 1st for those who know how things work in Dover). If you think the conversation is heated now, strap your seatbelt on and get ready for an insane ride until the end of the legislative session!
Will Executive Director Donna Johnson and the State Board of Education meet the requirements to get out of Sunset review? I guess we have to wait until next year! But the fact they are being held over until then means they did not satisfy the committee. Meanwhile, long-time State Board of Education receptionist Danielle Moore is retiring at the end of June. I’ve seen Danielle probably hundreds of times between the Townsend Building and Legislative Hall. She is an awesome lady and is always courteous and genuine. Best of luck on your future endeavors Danielle!
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today. There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network. The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School. Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district. The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district. However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.
Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was. State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion. Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola. This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85. State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.
State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District. He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.
If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews
State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews. The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.
Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill. Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing, said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough. DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.
My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with. Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area. This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.
While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district. I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius. While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District. In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina. While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS. I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools. Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.
The bill, if passed, would take place immediately. However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January. During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools. Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary. If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.
Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.
Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, will soon be standing at a crossroads. As someone who preaches district and charter collaboration on one hand, the other hand is busy trying to find ways to get more district money to follow students at Delaware charters. This dichotomy is going to define the future of charter schools in Delaware.
As anyone breathing in Delaware is well aware, fifteen charter schools sued the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Christina School District over funds they felt should have been going to charter schools. The defining moment in the lawsuit: when Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky reversed changes to the local funding formula for school choice payments after September 1st. They could have been patient and allowed Godowsky or the next Delaware Secretary of Education and the General Assembly the opportunity to figure it out. But instead, they took the legal route which was championed by Kendall Massett. As a result, the law firm of Saul Ewing will get $300,000. How many teachers could be hired with that kind of money? How many students could have received a paraprofessional in a school room bursting with over 25 kids?
If the collaboration Massett truly desires took place, this lawsuit wouldn’t have happened in the first place. If there is blame to be thrown around regarding who was at fault with the local funding formula, that blame lands solely at the feet of the Delaware Dept. of Education. They should have been the ones answering the questions for the charters. Christina performed their due diligence and submitted their exclusions to the Delaware DOE. This originated last Winter, with Newark Charter School calling in the DOE who apparently “confessed” to the powers that be about the exclusions submitted by Christina. The DOE had an opportunity right then and there to make good on this. The charter schools could have gone public with this information and forced the DOE to do something about it. And if that didn’t work, they could have brought in the General Assembly. But instead, they kept this a secret for many months. They had to know when the public found out about this they would be understandably upset. These were huge funding changes with charter payments. This was not a wise move for the charters involved. By alleging that Christina was purposely withholding funds from these charters when the district did the same thing they had been doing for 12-13 years, which I might add was completely legal since the DOE approved them, the charters started a war. It is not that difficult to see this was the original intent. It boils down to Greg Meece having a hissy fit because his school wanted more money and if Christina wouldn’t willfully give it up, he was going to punish them and cast blame.
In an article on Delaware First Media, written by Meg Pauly on December 1st, Massett weighed in on the Christina Board of Education signing the settlement with the fifteen charters. Massett, as the go-to spokeswoman for Delaware charter schools, seemed to have some very big misunderstandings about what this settlement really is.
She said the decision most likely won’t require a vote from each schools’ entire board of directors, which could make it easier to approve.
“Because there would not be any money going out – they’re not paying out a settlement, it would be money coming in – there’s not really a fiduciary responsibility that the board would have to approve,” Massett said.
There is certainly a fiduciary responsibility stemming from this settlement. The charters, according to the settlement, would have to make sure the funds were allocated to certain functions similar to what those funds were used for in the Christina School District. As well, the Pandora’s box called tuition tax funds were brought up in the settlement. It states:
In the CSD settlement agreement, CSD has agreed to catalogue and describe, for DOE and CSD Charter Schools, those services provided by CSD to children with special needs (“Special Needs Services”) that are funded in whole, in whole or in part, with revenues generated by the levy of the so-called Tuition Tax by CSD. The objective of this undertaking is to determine whether CSD shall be financially responsible under Section 509(f) for funding the same or similar Special Needs Services provided by CSD Charter Schools to their CSD resident students. If requested, DOE will participate in the discussions and inquiry described in this subsection, and, where necessary, shall enforce this provision.
So what does Section 509(f) of Delaware State Code say?
For any student, who because of educational need requires services that are appropriately financed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title, either at the outset or subsequent to a decision to enroll in a charter school, the student’s district of residence shall remain financially responsible for such student and the charter school shall receive from such district a payment determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title.
Which brings us back to Chapter 6 of Title 14:
§ 604 Special programs.
(a) If any pupil is counted in the preschool, intensive or complex unit and attends school in a program operated by a district other than that in which the pupil resides, by an agency of the Department of Education or is in an approved private placement pursuant to § 3124 of this title, the receiving district or the Department of Education shall collect a tuition charge for the nonresident pupil, provided approval for attendance has been granted by the sending district. Such tuition charge shall be paid by the school board of the reorganized school district in which the pupil is a resident from the proceeds of a local tax levied for this specific purpose, except that in the case of a district assigned by the Department with the approval of the State Board of Education to administer a school or program for children with disabilities, or special programs approved by the Department of Education for persons without disabilities such as programs for bilingual students or programs for pregnant students, the district so assigned shall be both the sending and receiving district in regard to that school or program and is authorized to collect tuition charges accordingly.
(b) In determining the tuition to be charged for a pupil counted in the preschool, intensive or complex units or for a person without disabilities attending approved special programs, such as bilingual programs or programs for pregnant students operated by a district other than that in which the student resides or by an agency of the State Department of Education, the receiving district or the State Department of Education shall compute the tuition by adding such receiving district’s share of educational related expenses as allowed by the Department of Education regulations. The sum so obtained shall be divided by the total number of pupils in the special program as of September 30 of the current school year. The resulting figure shall represent the amount of the “tuition charge” per pupil.
(c) In determining the tuition charged to the sending district in the case of private placement for children with disabilities, tuition will be defined as in § 3124 of this title and the sending district will be charged 30 percent of the total tuition cost. The remaining 70 percent will be covered through funding provided by the State Department of Education from the annual appropriation for this purpose.
The charter schools get IDEA Part B funding from the federal government. They receive special education funding from the state for Basic Special Education for students in pre-school (if they have those programs) and students in 4th-12th grade. They get intensive and complex funding for students in all grades. Where the tuition tax gets very complex is how it is determined. The local school board votes to set the current year’s tuition tax rate for taxpayers. It is not something the district can change on a whim. And state code is very specific about what those funds can be used for. What makes Christina very unique is that they are the management district for several special needs programs. Those are not funds the charter schools could touch based on this settlement unless they are providing comparable services. Then we get into the definition of a comparable service. Would Gateway Lab School be considered the same school as the special schools within Christina?
Where Kendall, as well as the entire settlement, performs a massive overreach is in this particular section. It is tampering with state code in unbelievable ways. State code does not legally have to honor a settlement stemming from a lawsuit between a school district and a group of charters. As well, it can not, and should not, dictate what a state agency has to do. That is what we have our General Assembly for, to create and amend laws. We can certainly discuss the merit of some of those laws, but that is the very essence of the Constitution of Delaware. A settlement should not create new contradictions that try to negate existing law. Which is why Secretary Godowsky wanted the General Assembly to intervene in this entire funding process. I am assuming the Delaware DOE signed their settlement agreement with the fifteen charters. Which is even more concerning in my eyes. The fact they would allow changes in Delaware law without approval of the legislative body charged with performing that task. A settlement cannot create laws or regulations.
What this section does is change the duty of charter schools in regards to their adherence of special education law which they should already be doing to the best of their ability. This settlement is much more than a “fiduciary responsibility” in nature, as Massett put it. Something that magnanimous in scope should be approved by a charter school board, not a Head of School or even an interim principal in one case. It is fiduciary in a sense that the charters would receive more money from a tuition tax, but it would require an oversight of the special education services within each of those charter schools to make sure they are performing at a comparable level to Christina. That could involve extra resources and staff those charters may not have. Could a charter hire that staff and pay for those resources and then submit for those tuition tax funds? Or would those services and staff have to already be in place to be eligible for those funds? The settlement does not define that.
If, for some odd reason, legislation is created out of this part of the settlement, it would require districts to collect even more tuition tax from taxpaying citizens within their district. They would have to because more would be required to go out to charter schools for those students. They should not be tasked with divvying up the existing tuition tax they receive for the students within their own district with those needs or funds they are already sending to special education schools outside of their district. That would take away from those students. But here is the major problem with this: the local boards have to determine the tuition tax rate in the summer before the school year starts. They base this on projections within their own district. How can they determine the needs of special education students who reside in their district but attend charter schools before the school year even starts? For some they can, but special education can be very fluid, evolving from year to year. It is hard enough for the districts to do this for their own students.
If Kendall Massett wants more collaboration between districts and charters going forward, she needs to stop drawing this line in the sand when it comes to money. She is going to continue to piss off the districts and they will not want to collaborate with the charters who keep demanding more and more from them. Districts can’t always get performance funds or donations from foundations. They can’t always have silent auctions like many charter schools do. All Delaware public schools have the capability of applying for grants from the state or the federal government, including charters. Districts don’t get to keep their excess transportation spending if they set their budget higher than what they actually spend. And charters are free to use this money as they please. So please, tell me Kendall, if the charters are getting what you view as their “fair share“, will you promote removing those extra perks for the charters that districts don’t get? When it comes to education funding, there is a crystal-clear difference between what a charter school needs and what an entire district needs. In some ways, it is like comparing apples to oranges. You can’t complain about charters not receiving capital funding. That was the way the law for charters was set up. It was the price of admission into Delaware public education. So by default, on paper, it would appear charters get less than districts for that very reason.
Some could argue that this latest misstep by the charters is just more of an ongoing agenda to privatize public education. Just one more chunk taken from school districts and flowing into the hands of charter schools which are actually non-profit corporations. By state law, those corporations are required to file IRS tax returns. But because of loopholes in IRS guidance, the one charter school who actually started this whole charter payment mess is the one school that does not file those tax returns. The guiding force behind the lawsuit was Greg Meece and Newark Charter School. They created the very conditions that led to the lawsuit. The settlement promises severe disruption to all Delaware schools involving special education and funding. But Newark Charter School is not transparent with their own finances the same way the rest of Delaware charters are. I have grave issues with that. And I have no doubt in my mind Kendall is aware of this.
In a News Journal article from December 5th discussing the settlement details, written by Adam Duvernay, Kendall states the following:
“I’m glad everyone will have a seat at the table, and that the process will be transparent, so we don’t find ourselves in this situation again where charter schools go for years without answers and feel like they need to resort to legal action to make their voices heard,” Massett said.
What about the questions many Delawareans have been asking the charter schools for years without any real answers? Like how certain Delaware charter schools can cherry-pick students in defiance of state and federal law? When does Newark Charter School, which created this whole mess, finally implement their plan to balance their demographics at their school? When does Newark Charter School become fully transparent with their own money the way every other Delaware charter school is required by law to do? Massett cherry-picks her statements. She wants districts to answer any questions charters have, but when those answers are needed by others, she either deflects or states it just isn’t true. And when people do take legal actions surrounding charter demographics? Like when the Office of Civil Rights asked for all charter school applications a couple of years ago going back the two years before that request? The Delaware Charter Schools Network became the organization tasked with collecting that information. And what happened? Massett informed the Office of Civil Rights the charters did not know they needed to keep that information. And then there is the matter of the now two-year-old complaint from the Delaware ACLU against the State of Delaware and Red Clay regarding practices of segregation and discrimination from some Delaware charter schools. Kendall called that “a myth.” Two years later and that complaint has gone nowhere. Forcing someone to sit at the table with a menu where there are two choices, our way or no way, is not collaboration. It is not legal action. It is manipulation that doesn’t belong in education. With education, every decision eventually affects students in a good way or a bad way. For far too long, those decisions have existed for the benefit of charter school students.
Getting real here, Kendall’s job is to promote charter schools and to serve as a buffer between them and the state in certain areas. At heart, Kendall is a lobbyist, seeking to influence the General Assembly and the Delaware DOE in ways that will benefit charter schools in the state. Charter schools pay dues to the Delaware Charter Schools Network. In a sense, they are very similar to some of the roles the Delaware State Education Association plays in education politics. But the difference is that DSEA represents the teachers in district schools. They promote or oppose legislation that will benefit the teachers within their organization. I have no doubt DSEA would love to have charter school teachers unionize. But the Delaware Charter School Network exists for a niche within public education that almost serves as a parasite on the districts they feed from. It takes from the host body and sucks the energy out of it. That is the price of school choice that Kendall cannot seem to fathom.
In 2017, education will once again be front and center in Delaware. The corporate education reform movement, led by the Rodel Foundation in Delaware, will become more pronounced with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, it almost seems like the charter movement in Delaware and those who advocate for them, seem to have become more emboldened with the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. He promised billions of dollars to charter schools. To add salt to that wound, he appointed Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. A charter school lover if there ever was one. I have no doubt charter advocates across the country are feeling almost empowered by these events. Supporters of public education are very worried about what will happen to further erode an education system that has been in place long before the very idea of a charter school was introduced.
In Delaware, Kendall Massett will continue to have great relationships with the Dept. of Education and the State Board of Education. She will exert her influence on the General Assembly. If any bill is introduced that will negatively impact charter schools, she will wield her power and influence to put a stop to it. She is backed by some very powerful forces in Delaware that will not be trifled with in any way. But none of these forces see what their choices and decisions make to education as a whole. If charters and districts were funded the same way as the vo-tech schools in Delaware, I don’t think the issues with charter schools in the state would be as big. But this parasitic relationship between districts and charters is paralyzing to education in Delaware. There are other things that perform the same damaging results, but we can control how this particular relationship evolves. Districts and charters aren’t going anywhere. If charters want to co-exist with districts and have true and meaningful collaboration, they have to stop these games. And Kendall Massett, as the spokeswoman for the charters, will have to take on a different mantra. It isn’t a question of choice at this point, it is an answer that demands immediate implementation. Fair goes both ways.
If I were Kendall Massett, I would actually recommend the Christina Board of Education rescinds their vote on the settlement. Funding is important, but shaking down a district like this which will only tick off the other districts in the state, is not something to be proud of. It is not a victory when students continue to pay the price.
The Delaware charter school train is back on the schedule. The Delaware Department of Education is accepting applications for new charter schools. The moratorium on new charter school applications will be lifted once the DOE finished the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities strategic plan. The committee coming up with this has one more meeting (tentatively scheduled for 12/19) and the strategic plan will come out. Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman hinted at the meeting last week that the DOE anticipates at least two new charter school applications.
While this doesn’t mean these charters will get past the application phase, it means the machine is revving its engines again. No new charter schools have been approved for Delaware since the very crazy Spring of 2014 when the State Board of Education was handing out charters like they were candy. The ramifications of their carelessness and haste caused two charters to close. Delaware Met closed less than six months after they opened and Delaware STEM Academy never even opened.
Meanwhile, the settlement between the Christina School District and 15 charter schools will set precedent that all charters will get more money from the tuition tax if they are implementing special education with fidelity. Say what you will about the settlement, but this will provide greater oversight of special education in Delaware charter schools. In my eyes, greater oversight is needed for ALL Delaware schools.
Will Delaware STEM Academy make another attempt at a new school? Last Spring, the school underwent a formal review due to low enrollment for their opening. This resulted in the State Board of Education taking their charter back. Will the Mapleton Charter School try to come back in some form in some town? Last year they submitted a modification to open up a charter school in Dover instead of at Whitehall (a new development in the Middletown area) but rescinded the request and handed their charter back to the DOE.
In my opinion, Wilmington is still saturated with charter schools. More is not the answer at all for that city. Sussex County, with only one charter school, would be my best guess for the next wave of Delaware charters. The way Kendall Massett kept giving comment at the above strategic plan meetings about Sussex districts collaborating to meet programs they couldn’t do on their own tells me the Delaware Charter Schools Network really wants more charters in lower Delaware.
We shall see who applies this year. At this point, no applications have been uploaded on the DOE website, but give it time!
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!