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 “CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control”
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 “Former DAPSS Board President Rips School & Kendall Massett To Shreds While Margie Lopez-Waite Pleads To Keep School Open”
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 Détente”
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 “Kendall Massett Rides To The Rescue For Thomas Edison Board As They Are About To Violate More Open Meeting Laws”
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 “Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics”
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!
The Delaware Dept. of Education held the third meeting of the Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities in Delaware today. I can’t even make an abbreviation out of that one. Do not be confused with the Strategic Plan for Special Education that the DOE is also working on. In any event, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams was NOT a happy camper. While she is not a member of this committee, she attended the meeting and had some words to say to the DOE.
Apparently this committee came about as a result of an amendment on House Bill #56, the Wilmington charter school moratorium legislation signed by Governor Markell in 2015. The Dept. was tasked with reviewing all educational opportunities in the state including charter, district, and vo-tech. The DOE contracted with Public Consulting Group (PCG) to write up the report which came out last December. PCG continued to work on the strategic plan and came out with another report in October. In the October report, PCG made a reference to a District-Charter Collaboration Task Force. Which is ironic since they didn’t post minutes nor did they come out with a final report.
At one point during the meeting today, Delaware Senator David Sokola mentioned a need for low-income and special education information on school choice applications. David Blowman from the Delaware DOE allowed me to speak and I mentioned how the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, of which Sokola was a member, voted in the majority that information like that should not be on choice applications. I mentioned that it was recommendations from the task force but it showed a clear decision to not have those items on choice applications. Blowman agreed with me and said those items should not be on applications. This prompted Rep. Williams to speak…
In August, Rep. Williams contacted the DOE about this strategic plan. She contacted PCG and discussed the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which met for a year and a half, kept all their minutes, and came out with a mammoth-sized final report which was sent to the DOE and the General Assembly. She emailed a link to PCG. Nothing even mentioning the Enrollment Preferences Task Force made it into PCG’s October report. Williams blasted the DOE for this by stating she failed to understand how this strategic plan is meant to provide opportunities for ALL students. She was clearly (and understandably) upset the report gave no mention to a task force she devoted a year and a half to. But the District-Charter Collaboration Task Force, which had severe issues with transparency and no final report. It was obvious to many in the audience that this oversight was not simply a mistake on PCG’s report. I know for a fact the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson worked with PCG on their initial report which came out a few days before the final report for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force came out.
Senator Sokola asked Williams why she didn’t introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the task force during the last legislative session. Williams explained that the legislation wouldn’t have come out until March of this year and everyone was very wrapped up in the WEIC redistricting plan. Sokola said he can see that. But Williams did say she will be introducing legislation based on those recommendations when the General Assembly comes back in January. Williams argued that if she didn’t look at the October report from PCG and she didn’t attend this meeting, the DOE wouldn’t have even thought to mention the work 27 members of the task force worked on for a year and a half into this strategic plan. There was no clear response from Blowman or Susan Haberstroh (also with the DOE).
Williams mentioned the glaring omission two times. Eventually, Haberstroh assured the committee and Rep. Williams the Enrollment Preference Task Force report would be a part of the strategic plan. This was supposed to be the last meeting of this committee but once the subject of enrollment barriers came up it was obvious the committee would need to meet again which all agreed to.
There is something about this committee that seems off. Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques talked about the Christina School District a few times when talking about surplus school seats. As well, the subject of empty buildings districts own came up. I always find it to be odd when Sokola and Jaques, who are in their seats primarily because of voters from the Christina School District, tear into them. I didn’t trust it when Sokola mentioned having information on choice applications he knew damn well shouldn’t be on there.
When Jeff Klein with the University of Delaware presented a report on choice applications by zip code, he did say there was a section in Maryland. Sokola mentioned it could be a teacher sending their child to a Delaware school. Which I assume to be Newark Charter School. The DOE responded by saying it would be illegal for Delaware to pay for a Maryland student in a Delaware school. Sokola had a puzzled look on his face…
Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked a question similar to one she asked at the meeting a few weeks ago. She questioned why, as an example, if Woodbridge and Delmar school districts wanted a culinary program but didn’t have enough students to have a program, why they couldn’t push for opening a charter school to serve that need. Heath Chasanov with Woodbridge explained they do have a program with Delmar that Del Tech coordinates. I don’t fault Kendall for asking the question, but it would be more financially feasible for the districts to work together to offer programs in coordination as opposed to opening a brand new charter school that may or not fail. This was echoed by David Blowman.
I did find out, 100%, that there are NO plans for Prestige Academy to merge into EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations. Massett did explain that all the Wilmington charters are working with Prestige for a smooth transition for the students when the charter closes at the end of the year.
To read the reports PCG came out with in October, please see below.
The Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee will meet tonight at Legislative Hall in the House Majority Hearing Room. The fun starts at 6pm. Will Jack Markell show up? It would be very tight. At 5pm he will be in Wilmington for the Delaware Open Data Launch, and then he has to be at Dover Downs for the 2016 Volunteer Awards ceremony.
I can’t believe there has been no announcement concerning who is actually on this committee. I know State Rep. Kim Williams, Deb Stevens from DSEA, and Appo Superintendent Matt Burrows are on it. If I were a betting man, I’m sure Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network is on it. She rarely gives up a spot on any committee for a designee. Someone from Rodel. Perhaps Kevin Carson from the Delaware Association of School Administrators. John Marinucci from the Delaware School Boards Association. I have a feeling I will know most of this crowd. See you tonight!
If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”
“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”
The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.
These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.
School safety. Two words that mean so many things to so many people. To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence. To some it means reporting requirements. Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine. Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.
Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall. Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee. He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced. Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety. The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.
The below report has a great deal of information. It is very long but it is worth the read. Take the time to read it. Every single word. Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there. It affects every single citizen of this state. Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.
The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers. Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer. Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools. Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.
There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.
Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.
It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money. One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.
The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools. I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE. But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.
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:
- petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
- 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
- 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83
Delaware Military Academy:
- had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
- checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
- 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
- failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”
Charter School of Wilmington:
- had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
- no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
- 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
- had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:
- had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
- no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
- 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11
- 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
- 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
On September 2nd, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and Assistant Deputy Secretary David Blowman met with Greg Meece, Stephen Dressel, Joanne Schlossberg, Chuck Taylor, Margie Lopez-Waite, Kendall Massett, and William Manning at Newark Charter School. The last name is important because William Manning is the lead attorney in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education. William Manning is a partner at Saul Ewing LLP, which also happens to be the lead charter school attorney law firm.
Delaware charter schools, especially ones alleged to “cherry-pick” students, have long complained about not getting their rightful share of money while at the same time they constantly boast how they “do more with less”. In fact, Manning complained about this to the U.S. Congress back in 2000, as I wrote in an article last year:
I believe, as do many of you, that charter schools are already improving the educational landscape by offering variety, quality and single-school focus to those who previously had to pay to get those things. That’s the good news. The bad news is that charter schools are still regarded by the educational establishment in some quarters as the enemy. Thus, the organization that owns our school buildings is sometimes stingy with them when it comes to housing charter schools. Nor do the funding formulae in many state charter school bills provide adequate capital- as opposed to operating- assistance to charter schools. Please don’t overlook them.
Manning served as the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education when the original Delaware charter school law was written in 1995. But where this gets more interesting is Manning’s very direct tie with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. His wife, Martha Manning, created the Delaware Charter Schools Network. She is also on the boards of Innovative Schools and the Red Clay Education Foundation.
Martha Manning stepped down from the Delaware Charter Schools Network in 2006, but her husband is still heavily involved with Saul Ewing LLP. It was not a coincidence he was called in for the Sept. 2nd meeting at Newark Charter School, mentioned above. Chuck Taylor is the Head of School and Providence Creek Academy, the President of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and a member of the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education. Margie Lopez-Waite runs Las Americas ASPIRAS. And Kendall Massett… good old Kendall… who gave a presentation at the State Board of Education meeting last month on, of all possible things, charter and district collaboration. The irony is still astounding! Kendall gave a quote to the News Journal yesterday:
Kendall Massett, director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said in a prepared statement, “We applaud the state Department of Education for recognizing the out-of-proportion exclusion requests from Christina School District this year and for taking steps to bring them in line, in the interest of fairness for students and to make the process consistent among all districts. But that decision was reversed after the deadline mandated by state law.”
Whatever Kendall! Many decisions were made without full clarity. In fact, the whole process beginning with the NCS Trio getting a meeting with David Blowman wasn’t readily shared with all district financial officers. In fact, we can see how the Delaware DOE actually blew off Robert Silber when he asked the DOE why they wanted a list of district exclusions.
This was why State Rep. John Kowalko submitted a request to Secretary Godowsky in early September for a list of who was involved and specific dates. Godowsky did provide that timeline and specific names to Rep. Kowalko on September 20th. Rep. Kowalko asked me to share this with the public so that everyone knows what the specific timeline was and who was involved in each step. In addition, there are several emails from the Delaware DOE to charter and school leaders.
From: May Alison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:45 AM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Cc: Godowsky, Steven (K12)
Subject: information request
Please find answers embedded in red below as well as attached copies of email correspondence in response to your questions.
I need to know the details of the meeting in April which was attended by Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel and David Blowman, with a list of anyone else who attended that meeting, whether from DOE, State Board, or other (for instance the DE Charter Schools Network, etc.). I would like to know if any legislators attended that meeting. I am also asking if there were additional meetings with any smaller groups discussing this matter and who were attendees. I want to know if there were any unannounced meetings w/CFOs or Superintendents regarding this issue. I realize the DOE has monthly meetings, usually separate, with all the charter and district CFOs. Has anyone else attended these meetings?
Those four were the only ones at the meeting, which occurred at the request of the school.
Please send me a timeline of events, including:
When the CFOs were notified about submitting a list of excluded information (in May as I’ve been made aware by one district) and whether the notification went to all districts and when was that list due.
*Discussed at April 8 Business Managers meeting (see agenda from April 7 email attached)
*Follow-up email sent May 25 (see attached)
*Christina response received June 8 (see attached)
Which individuals took part in the decision-making process regarding which exclusions were allowable or not allowable by DOE
*David Blowman, Brook Hughes and Kim Wheatley
When (specific date needed) the new allowable exclusion list was sent to CFOs/Superintendents
*August 8 (see attached)
When (specific date) charters were notified so they could send their bills to DOE to send to districts
*August 12 (see attached)
When (specific date) DOE sent those bills to the districts
*August 16 (see attached)
When Bob Silber (Christina CFO) was notified of the exclusion issue with Christina
*See above dates
Please send a list of all persons that attended the meeting at Newark Charter last week. Steve Godowsky, David Blowman, Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel, Margie Lopez-Waite, Bill Manning, Chuck Taylor, Kendall Massett
As you can surmise I expect a list of any and all attendees at any meeting discussing this issue. Please send an accurate report of this information to me as soon as possible.
This also was discussed with superintendents at their September 1 Chief School Officers Association (CSOA) meeting at POLYTECH.
And this is what the Delaware DOE sent to State Rep. Kowalko in terms of email discussions concerning this issue. Note the absence of any emails from the Newark Charter School trio to anyone at the DOE prior to April 8th when they would have requested the initial meeting with Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman.
In the complaint against Christina and the DOE, it states the charters want a full accounting of what funds were excluded from the local payments to charters going back to 2008. Why 2008? At that time, the Superintendent of the Christina School District was Lillian Lowery. Shortly after Governor Markell’s first inauguration in 2009, Lillian Lowery was confirmed by the Delaware Senate to become the Delaware Secretary of Education. The looming question is what was signed off on back in 2008 and 2009 by the Delaware DOE. Obviously, NCS feels this is some type of crucial timeframe which pertains to the lawsuit. But the even bigger question is who was giving them information and why. I’ve heard some wild tales about that timeframe. But until I am able to confirm anything, I will remain mum.
The News Journal just reported that a group of Delaware charter schools are suing Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education over the charter school funding issue that I broke at the end of August. This is unbelievable! I can’t believe they have the unmitigated gall to go behind the districts’ backs all Spring, have the DOE issue “updated” funding formulas in August, and then sue Christina and the DOE after Secretary Godowsky reversed course on the plan.
And who does the News Journal have as a fresh picture, taken two days ago? None other than Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. When Newark Charter School’s Head of School Greg Meece and Kendall Massett get together, we should expect nothing but trouble. For all of Massett’s talk about wanting district and charter collaboration, she sure has a funny way of showing it.
Fifteen charter schools have filed suit against the state Department of Education and Christina School District to get what they claim is their fair share of funding. Christina has been withholding millions of dollars in local tax revenue from charter schools for years and the Department of Education has been complicit, according to the lawsuit.
Their fair share of funding is what they already get. I actually can’t wait to see this go to court. I will say it here and now… the charter schools will lose! Who is paying for their attorney fees?
Under the adjusted formula, Christina School District would have had to pay about $3 million more this year than it had been planning. For Newark Charter School, one of the chief beneficiaries of those funds, that would have meant an additional $1 million in revenue.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again… this amounts to Greg Meece going for an unprecedented money grab for Christina after they won their referendum last Spring. And I also have a pretty good idea why he thinks the charters will win. But I will hold that close to the vest for now. But that one goes all the way to the top of Delaware, right Jack? So how far back does this lawsuit go? How about 2008!
The lawsuit aims at reinstating the adjustments made to the statewide formula and forcing Christina to pay back what it has withheld since 2008.
Newark Charter knows that if they win this would bankrupt Christina which I have no doubt is their overall plan. And what then? All of Christina goes back to the state and would most likely convert to charters. Is Meece going to lead his long dreamed of Newark Charter School Network and take all those kids he didn’t want for the past 15 years? I know what happened in 2008 when a former Christina Board member told Meece they would get additional funds from their referendum but the board member spoke out of turn. Ever since, Meece has been gunning for Christina because of bad information. I also have a pretty good idea of where Meece got certain information from that is making him think he has a case. That will be the true revelation when all is revealed!
I would have to assume these fifteen charters are the ones that get funding from Christina School District, which is most likely every one in New Castle County.
On September 15th, a presentation will be given at the State Board of Education meeting by Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. The subject: charter and district collaboration. The irony! Kendall will be joined by charter leaders AND district leaders. I’d give pretty good odds Dusty Blakey will be there. The Colonial Superintendent joined the board of Las Americas Aspiras last spring. What other district leaders will be in attendance? I’d give even better odds that Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski will NOT be there.
Who do you think will show up?
I’m going to guess Ed Emmett with Positive Outcomes, Matt Burrows with Appoquinimink, maybe Merv Daugherty with Red Clay, and could it happen? Greg Meece with Newark Charter School? They should be good as long as they don’t bring up FUNDING.
Incompetence seems to rule the Delaware DOE these days.
The Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Charter Schools, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network have been holding meetings this year to look at changing two areas of their annual Performance Framework. The Financial and Organizational Frameworks are two sections that have been controversial for charter schools in the first state. Some of the proposed changes are minor but some are very big. One statement from the proposed draft for the organizational framework probably sums up what many of the charter schools feel when these things roll out each year:
In order to avoid penalizing charter schools for anything less than perfection, the authorizer will apply a reasonable interpretation of sufficiency that acknowledges attentiveness, prudent compliance, and generally sound stewardship.
Let’s get real here Delaware! Unless a charter school falls apart like Delaware Met, Moyer, and Pencader, you aren’t going to see the DOE or even Red Clay doing a lot in terms of compliance on some of these issues. Especially website maintenance. Far too many charters have been raked over the coals by bloggers such as myself for not adhering to the law on tons of the requirements. But when it comes time for the charter to renew or get a modification, or even get a formal review, those things are rarely mentioned in the conversation. The State Board of Education rarely talks about any of that stuff. But in my eye, they need to be perfect with those things. The districts do as well (see: Indian River).
One of the biggest flaws in this new system pertains to board membership. Delaware law clearly states:
At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;
With this new organizational framework, they are proposing to change Delaware code, without any regulation or legislation, by giving charters a 90 day window to fill the parent and teacher slot for their board membership. This label in the framework would give the charter a “partially meets standard”. You can’t partially follow the law. You either do it or you don’t. In this area, you are either “meets standard” or “does not meet standard”. As well, they want to do the same thing with not posting minutes and financial information on their website, but this would have a 60 day window. You can’t cherry-pick through state law. If the law needs to change, lobby legislators to change it. But you can’t do it through the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education. This Department continues to defy Delaware legislators. It is the legislators duty to write the laws of this state, not the Charter School Office at the DOE.
The proposed financial framework would give charters some leeway when it comes to reporting requirements or how they submit financial information with the state. Let me be the first to say ALL Delaware schools need to get some serious training on this. The training exists, but everyone seems to do what they want with limited to no oversight. There have to be uniform procedures and policies across the board for every charter and district in the state with absolutely no excuses. Once again, it comes down to partially breaking the law. A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one. But even more important, there have to be very real consequences for those who violate financial laws in our state. This is something I hope and pray the 149th General Assembly tackles when they come back in January. Because right now, it’s a train wreck.
I will fully admit I sometimes feel bad for the charters. Especially when it comes to the DOE’s constant nitpicking about things. An organization filled with more non-educators in leadership roles that doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a right and left hand most of the time.
But the most egregious thing out of all this: the window for public comment begins on September 1st. But try finding them anywhere. Good luck with that! I happened to find the below documents in the DOE search engine. How can you say this is an open, transparent, and collaborative method when the public can’t even comment on what you are proposing? Even worse, the State Board of Education won’t let you comment on any action item on their agenda. This won’t come up for final action at a State Board of Education meeting until their October 20th meeting, but if these documents are never released to the public it will be highly illegal for the State Board to take action.
The Delaware DOE Charter School Office needs to release these drafts to the public and let them comment on it. These documents have not been posted on the DOE website. Care to take a wild guess who is running the show on this? If you said David Blowman, that would be correct on the surface. Until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney, who left the DOE on July 1st, Blowman is the guy in charge. But in a very odd find, well, you’ll get the picture…
How can Jennifer Nagourney be the author of the below documents when she is no longer an employee at the Delaware DOE? Doesn’t she work in the Charter School Office at the New York City DOE now? What in God’s name is David Blowman doing? This is the same guy who has run the non-transparent local cost per pupil scam that has caused a “firestorm” in Delaware. The same guy who went ahead and sent out changes to school districts and charter schools without the old Secretary of Education Seal of Approval? And he is in charge of this hot mess? Where charters seem to think it will be okay to partially follow the law? With a guy like Blowman running the show no wonder they think they can do as they please! And, it goes without saying, I’m sure the Sisters of Sin, Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network have their hands involved in this. But Nagourney? Unless you are getting paid for this work when you are no longer employed by the State of Delaware, why are you even involved at this point? It’s not like I haven’t written about the old PDF right-click trick. And you guys keep forgetting that essential thing!
At this point in time, our General Assembly needs to meet for emergency hearings and subpoena the hell out of the entire Delaware Department of Education. Every single document in their system. Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom. The more than obvious fraud and lies coming out of this Department is readily available for anyone to see. I’ve proved it over and over again. But no one does anything about it. It’s time. You know it and I know it. So stop making postures and just do it!
Below are the two proposed frameworks. These are not approved, just in draft form.
Proposed Financial Framework
Proposed Organizational Framework
The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.
Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware. First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article. Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all. If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you? The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week. Charters planned their budgets months ago. Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer? Do you even know how to investigate an issue? I know you read my blog post. You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week. That was the true story here. But you used the word transparency once in the article.
Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”. It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School. Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle. The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.
May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.
And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status. Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.
For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.
Actually publishing this elusive formula would help. Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means? What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students? Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school? And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point. No. Not one mention of that. It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting. Poor Greg Meece. Boo-Hoo. Poor Kendall Massett. Boo-friggin-Hoo. Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean. She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was. That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue. I got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”. Guess what, your article was not true journalism. Not even close. I have a good excuse. This is a blog. But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state. And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity. How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. It is getting really old.
But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP! If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures. To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget. Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly. But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%. That is just bad journalism. When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage. That comes out to 17.8% if you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from. See what they did there? Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive. It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.
If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000. Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899? That would be salary and wages. But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year. And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum. Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year. Which they have to do. But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.
State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.
“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”
So whose responsibility is that? What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years. It is not the Delaware Department of Education. It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office. I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span. Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe. For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap. What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula? Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave? The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time? One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School? I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip! It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years! Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!
The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday. There were many more.
But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.
“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”
Equity? Coming from a paid lobbyist? This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity? When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does? My God Kendall, please, just stop. Equity and equality are too very different things. Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering. It is RACISM folks. They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around. It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted. It is segregation. The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor? When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that? Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL? And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award? And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I? The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth. And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more. Wake up! Don’t you see what is going on here?
If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators. When he knew about this is immaterial at this point. He knows about it now. And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision. It is Governor Jack Markell. If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually. For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.
Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is about to set off an education war unlike any Delaware has ever seen. If you thought the school district vs. charter school war was loud before, you haven’t seen anything yet.
In Title 14, the Delaware Secretary of Education has the authority to change the local cost per pupil. When a student choices out of their feeder pattern, or their local school district, a portion of that school district’s local funds follows the student to the charter school. To keep things in perspective, no Delaware Secretary of Education has touched this formula in the past 15-20 years. There are slight increases each year based on inflation, but they are nominal in comparison to what Godowsky is about to do.
For big districts like Red Clay and Christina, this will hurt them… bad. Any local school district that sends funds to charter schools will be affected by this decision. Every school in Delaware already created their FY2017 budget months ago. Each school district and charter set their budget on the expected number of students they anticipate having. This was based on the same formula that has been in use for years and years. When a district has a referendum, the funds generated from that referendum are earmarked for certain things. Godowsky found a way to circumvent those funds to directly benefit charter schools in Delaware.
On August 8th, Secretary Godowsky sent all the Chief Financial Officers of each district a letter. He asked them to list all of their restricted and unrestricted funds in their local budgets. Restricted funds are not used in the calculation for money going to charter schools or other choice schools out of district. These cover many things, like building maintenance, consultants, and food services as a few examples. These are district expenses that only affect the district. These aren’t services the student would bring to the new school. The school the student choices to should already have those services. Godowsky is moving budget allocations that were previously in restricted over to unrestricted. By changing the way this is done, charter schools will get more money while districts will have less. How much more? It will differ between district and how much local money they have. Even though Christina choices out more students, Red Clay has more money in their local share based on their tax base. But the districts will bleed. A lot of money. From what I’m hearing it could be anywhere from 10-15% more money going to the charters, depending on the district. Millions and millions of dollars. This won’t just be a Red Clay and Christina thing. Think Colonial, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smyrna, Capital, Caesar Rodney, Indian River… these districts will feel the pain as well. Any district that sends dollars to charters will send more.
So when your kid comes home from school this year in school districts, don’t be shocked to see something cut that you thought they would have already had. For charter school parents, they will be happy when their kid gets some new things they might not have had before. In other words, charter schools will be getting more while districts will be getting less. This will be in the double-digit millions. I don’t have exact amounts yet. But if your district pays a decent amount of money to charter schools, they will be paying a lot more.
Secretary Godowsky didn’t just wake up one day and say “I’m going to change the local cost per pupil formula this year!” This wasn’t even his idea. For this, we can thank the folks at Newark Charter School. When Christina won their third attempt at a referendum last March, the school immediately pounced on Christina for more money. Everyone wants more money, but Newark Charter School is relentless with their greed. Immediately after the referendum, their board discussed a meeting that was about to take place:
This trio from the bastion of discrimination and cherry-picking in Delaware, good old Newark Charter School, is Head of School Greg Meece, Board President Steven Dressel, and their Chief Financial Officer, Joanne Schlossberg. The Superintendent of the Christina School District, in an Acting Superintendent role, is Robert Andrzejewski. The Associate Secretary of Education is David Blowman. This was in April of this year, a month after Christina passed their referendum. Ironically, Newark Charter School’s May board minutes seem to have disappeared. I did read these board minutes when they came out, but I don’t recall specifics (I should have saved them). I know there was a lot of discussion about the school refinancing their bonds. In looking at Christina Board minutes and listening to their audio recordings, I did not see or hear any mention of “Bob A”, as their Superintendent is frequently referred to, and this strange group of people meeting. I would like to publicly, right here, right now, ask Bob A what happened at this meeting and be prepared to discuss at their next Board of Education meeting on September 20th. You don’t get a skate out of Christina free card Bob A.
Bob A did have a meeting with Newark Charter School earlier this year. He asked Meece to support Christina’s upcoming referendum. Meece flat-out refused. Even though their charter school directly benefits from Christina School District with their five mile radius requirement for students. Even Governor Markell and Senator David Sokola supported the referendum. Which was a bit unusual. But even that mystery will be cleared soon.
Meece, backed by the Delaware Charter Schools Network I’m sure, successfully lobbied the Secretary of Education to change the local cost per pupil formula. By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education has up until September 1st of each year to do this. But if this wasn’t the final straw, get ready, cause it gets worse. Several sources are telling me this won’t just go into affect for this school year. Godowsky wants districts to pay for last year based on the new formula.
Districts are at a loss. They are in a frenzy and searching other possible remedies to address this education funding catastrophe. When was this decision made? I don’t have the answer to that one…yet…but I’m working on it. It has been in play since April according to the Newark Charter School May Board minutes. David Blowman, as the former Deputy Secretary of Education until earlier this year, oversaw the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE. Since their Executive Director left in June, Blowman has been taking on the responsibilities as the authority figure in that area of the DOE until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney.
I have to imagine that Meece had other help with this as well. Something this high up and controversial would have to fly by Governor Markell. I have no doubt in my mind Meece’s legislative buddy Dave Sokola had a hand in this as well. Things like this don’t happen in a vacuum. I imagine the Delaware DOE will have to announce this by September 1st since this is the deadline for the Secretary to make these decisions.
This will create a war between school districts, charter schools, the DOE, the State Board of Education, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network unlike anything seen before. If this change in the way districts pay charters goes through, expect a lot of hardship on districts. Expect boons for charters. You will have to pick a side. You can’t sit there and stay neutral. Every Delaware candidate for public office is going to face this question. This isn’t going to be a situation where both sides can come to the table and stay neutral. This move by Godowsky is the knife in the back that will cause outrage.
All because one little man hates the Christina School District so much, and he continually runs his “great” school. The same school that continually benefits from the laws Delaware Senator David Sokola creates every single year. And from what I’m hearing, Sokola isn’t the only candidate running for office that is getting support from Newark Charter School. But the actions of this one little man will affect an entire state. If you thought the funding issues for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan were rough before, get ready for this whole thing to take on a whole new level.
I wrote earlier today about this with cryptic words. But make no mistake, Governor Jack Markell is leaving this in the lap of John Carney to deal with. Markell doesn’t give a crap about Delaware education. He has proven this time and time again. This is just one more of his final revenge tactics before he leaves office (he will have more if Jack lives up to his true self). Markell hates Christina. Watching him in the video supporting the district for their referendum… he looked like he would rather have a root canal. But it was very important their referendum passed. Which was why Sokola also supported it. If their referendum failed, Meece wouldn’t have been able to get the opportunity for his huge money grab.
This will affect every public school district student in the state. For years, education reformers true goals have been to privatize education. They found a very successful way to do it with charter schools. They suck money out of local districts until they are gone in some cities. But this time, I believe Meece overreached. The reputation of charter schools as greedy, money-sucking vampires of local school districts is now set in stone. All because of Meece. Remember this moment. Remember who started all of this.
District parents… I invite you all to attend the September State Board of Education meeting on September 15th. The meeting begins at 1pm at the Townsend Building in Dover. Bring picket signs protesting Godowsky’s actions. Give public comment and demand the State Board of Education take action on this abuse of power. Make your voice heard. Go to your local school district board meetings and tell them to not send this money to the charter schools. Go to the charter school board meetings and tell them they can’t get more while their children get less. I have no doubt the charter side will make a lot of noise. But only 10-12% of Delaware students go to charters. We have the numbers. We have the louder voice. And we have more voting power. Find out which legislators support the district side and which support the charter side. If they tell you they support both, they are useless. This war will demand strength in leadership.
When the dust settles on this, there will be casualties. The question that remains is how much more students have to suffer because of stupid little men like Greg Meece. We can’t tolerate this as a state any longer. We can’t have a third of our state budget benefitting charter schools and allowing our kids in school districts to suffer because of them. This has to change. The war began a long time ago, but take a side. And get ready to rumble!
I will be updating this story with new articles as they come out. This is going to be a long Autumn. With this action, Secretary Godowsky will replace Secretary Mark Murphy as the most reviled Delaware Secretary of Education in our entire history as a state.