Tonight, in a half hour part of their monthly meeting, the Delaware State Board of Education approved seven Delaware charter schools to be renewed. Continue reading
I have officially seen it all! Kuumba Academy in Wilmington is planning on having students do a presentation to Capital One to raise money for a playground. Meanwhile, their enrollment has dropped by a fairly big percentage. Continue reading
When you have 24 charter schools in a state, 22 of which are authorized by the state Department of Education, there are going to be years where the amount of charter renewals are going to go up. This fall, the Delaware DOE Charter School Office and the Charter School Accountability Committee are going to have their hands full as seven charter schools go through their renewal process. Continue reading
A week and a half ago, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to ALL Delaware school districts and charter schools. The districts and charters in the title of this post are those who have not sent anything back including an acknowledgment you received my FOIA request. This is not meant to call you out but rather to inform you of the deadline in 8-9 days (March 20th or March 21st) based on when I sent the requests.
If you did NOT receive the request either in email or from the online form provided on your website, please reach out to me at email@example.com
For the rest of our districts and charter schools in Delaware, I am very appreciative of your official FOIA response or your acknowledgement you got my request. Thank you!
Updated, 3/13/2018: As the folks named in the title respond, I am taking them out of the title!
Today, Governor Carney’s Office announced the recipients of the $1 million in opportunity grants that are part of the FY2018 Delaware budget. Colonial was by far the biggest winner receiving $200,000 for several schools.
Governor Carney Announces Recipients of $1 Million in Education Opportunity Grants
Funding will help districts and charter schools support disadvantaged students and English language learners
WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday announced that nine Delaware school districts and charter schools will receive a combined $1 million in Opportunity Grant funding to support programs that help disadvantaged students and English language learners succeed in classrooms across the state.
Delaware’s Opportunity Grant program – created and funded by Governor Carney and members of the General Assembly in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget – will help districts and charter schools improve supports for low-income students, students chronically exposed to stress and trauma, and English language learners. District and charter awardees will use the grant to fund programs in the 2017-18 school year.
“All Delaware students deserve a quality education and an equal chance to succeed. We’re working hard to provide schools and educators with the tools they need to more effectively serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and close the achievement gap,” said Governor Carney. “I look forward to seeing the progress that these schools and districts make, and will urge them to share their successes with their fellow educators across the state. Thank you to members of the General Assembly for their leadership in helping fund this program.”
Governor Carney has pledged to take decisive action to address Delaware’s achievement gap, and he has made it a priority to support disadvantaged students in Wilmington and across the state. In July, the Governor established the Wilmington-based Office of Innovation and Improvement, led by longtime Wilmington educator Dorrell Green, to support students and educators in high-needs schools.
For Christina School District, Opportunity Grant funding will help increase resources at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School for students and families dealing with complex trauma. Christina is focused on treating trauma as part of a larger effort to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, elevate student achievement, and more.
“The Christina School District is excited to receive an Opportunity Grant for Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, which will allow us to implement strategies like compassionate schools training for teachers and related resources that are critical to student success,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of Christina School District. “With this funding, students at Elbert-Palmer will truly have increased opportunities–just as the name of the grant suggests. We are thankful to the Department of Education for recognizing how much our students deserve to have access to high-quality programs.”
“We are very excited about this opportunity to make Elbert-Palmer a Comprehensive Compassionate School,” said Dr. Gina Moody, principal at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School. “Staff will be given resources to become more informed practitioners who engage with students with various social and emotional needs. Our plan will focus on providing stronger positive behavior supports for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, such as counseling services, and universal Tier 1 supports such as preferred activities and tangible incentives. Additionally, we will focus on engaging families in the educational process through community and school events.”
Woodbridge School District plans to use its Opportunity Grant funding to contract with a behavioral health provider who will provide counseling services at Woodbridge Early Childhood Center and Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.
“The awarding of the Opportunity Grant to Woodbridge will give our staff and students new and innovative approaches to meeting the social and emotional needs of our students,” said Heath Chasanov, Superintendent of Woodbridge School District and the 2017-18 President of the Chief School Officers Association. “We are extremely appreciative of this funding source being provided by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education to provide additional programs for our students to be successful.”
“The Woodbridge School District is very grateful for the opportunities this grant provides,” said Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District’s Director of Student Services. “We will be implementing additional innovative programs in music, mindfulness, health, wellness, and emotional stability as we continue our journey of meeting the social emotional needs of all of our students.”
Red Clay Consolidated School District plans to use the Opportunity Grant to enhance their trauma informed care so they can provide students who have greater needs with higher levels of care.
“We are extremely excited to receive this grant to work with students, families and staff members to provide trauma informed support and professional development,” said Dr. Mervin Daugherty, Superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “The opportunity to partner with the University of Delaware will also allow us to provide trauma screening and implement group/individual interventions for students impacted by trauma. We are hopeful this path forward will become a model for other schools throughout the district and the state.”
In considering applications for funding, the Department of Education gave preference to school-level initiatives, rather than broader district or organizational programs. Grant applicants outlined a detailed plan for how funds would be used – and grant recipients are required to provide information on the outcome of the support, in an effort to showcase what is working.
District and charter school awardees specifically focused on integrating student services and trauma-informed supports to low-income students, as well as on additional supports to low-income students and English language learners.
“We are thrilled to be able to facilitate educators’ efforts to better meet the diverse needs of students throughout the state, especially those students who need the most support,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “This opportunity also gives Delaware another way to identify what works in schools and to share successes with educators servicing similar populations.”
2017 Opportunity Grant awardees:
Colonial School District – $200,000 – Castle Hills Elementary, Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary, Pleaseantville Elementary, Wilmington Manor Elementary
This grant will support 1,970 students across four schools. The plan is for Colonial to implement trauma-informed supports and deepen the Responsive Classrooms approach through embedded training, coaching and other supports. A group of teacher-leaders will be developed. The plan is designed for this core group of teachers to turn the training around to the rest of the staff.
Christina School District – $106,832 – Elbert Palmer Elementary (EPE)
EPE will support 250 students and their families through a comprehensive, Compassionate Care model. EPE intends to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, increase family involvement, increase student achievement, and provide more resources for families dealing with complex trauma.
Red Clay School District – $106,832 – Richardson Park Elementary
Richardson Park will provide trauma informed care to all students by changing the school level climate. They will support staff in re-conceptualizing disruptive behavior to a trauma informed lens and provide access to higher level of trauma care for students in need. The project will: 1. Produce school staff who can identify, support, and refer all students exposed to trauma and who can integrate trauma informed care with existing programming. 2. Increase access to more intensive care of students of need and their families. 3. Strengthen Richardson Park’s network of trauma referrals.
Brandywine School District – Mt. Pleasant – $100,000 – Mount Pleasant Elementary (MPE)
The intended impact of this project will be to serve: 30-40 high need students and their families with ongoing, targeted supports; 200 families with services to meet their needs throughout the school year; and the entire adult and student population. They expect to see improvements in chronic absenteeism, family engagement, climate and student achievement. MPE seeks to become a comprehensive services center, as well as implement mindfulness initiatives throughout the school.
Great Oaks Charter School – $100,000
Great Oaks will support implementation of broad trauma based and social emotional programming to support 120 students with weekly individual and/or group counseling. All 446 students of the school’s students will benefit from the implementation of a restorative discipline system designed to drive self-agency and positive decision making. Great Oaks serves grades 6-8.
Kuumba Academy Charter School – $100,000
Kuumba will use the grant to fund a portion of its comprehensive trauma-informed practices and supports package. The package addresses school culture, academic needs, family engagement and service provision through a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive lens. Kuumba is committed to providing integrated student services and trauma-informed supports to low income students. The package will serve all of the school’s 750 students in grades K-8.
Las Americas Aspira Charter School – $100,000
LAAA will implement a reading framework supporting the needs of EL students, including embedded teacher supports. This reading framework will enhance the balanced literacy framework by embedding language acquisition scaffolds so that all students, English Learners included, improve their literacy achievement and ultimately close the reading achievement gap.
Woodbridge School District – $97,678 –Woodbridge Early Childhood Center, Phillis Wheatley Elementary School
Woodbridge will provide parents with the necessary knowledge to make informed nutritional choices for their families, and further develop staff members on trauma informed practices in order to support student’s academic and behavioral needs. One of the primary focus areas of the grant is to contract with a behavioral health provider to provide counseling services in both schools.
Caesar Rodney School District – $88,656 –Caesar Rodney High School
Caesar Rodney will provide trauma informed supports and integrated services for all 750 English learner (EL) students. The plan is designed to train non-ESL certified teachers using a train-the-trainer model to better meet the academic and language needs of the ELs. CRHS will utilize the expertise of the University of Delaware and WIDA resources (resources to assist in language acquisition for English learner students) to target planning, instruction and assessment.
Some very interesting choices here. These schools are definitely ones that have some high populations of high-needs students. Two of the three charters are located in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington. I have to wonder how many actually applied for these funds. With all the cuts to the education budget, this doesn’t even begin to make a dent to restore those funds. Many of the areas these funds will help students the most were widely discussed during the Every Student Succeeds Act discussion groups a year ago.
The below picture portrays exactly what is wrong with education funding in Delaware. There is no consistency or oversight with where existing funds are going. As a result, we have a boiling cauldron of fraud, waste, and abuse. It seems like anyone can get paid in education and it can be catalogued however a school wants.
In this picture, we see the former Head of School from Family Foundations Academy and East Side Academy doing what appears to be consulting work for three Delaware charter schools. Given that the amounts are very similar, I can assume it was the same type of work. All three schools put the payments under different categories: Educational Benefits-Chld, Consultants, and Other Professional Service. All three schools used different funds for what I assume to be similar work: Special, General, and Federal. All three schools belong to the same Wilmington Charter School Collaborative, which is an alternate teacher evaluation system. This initiative came about through Lamont Browne.
Lamont Browne left Delaware last summer and moved to Colorado to work his “magic” in another corporate education reform state. So how is it he is able to do all this work in Colorado and still get paid by the State of Delaware through various charter schools? Does he have a finders fee for this teacher evaluation system?
Governor Carney wants to talk about all these education funding decisions but has completely ignored the elephant in the room: we don’t know where existing funding is going to, especially in our charter schools. School districts pull the same kind of shenanigans (wait until you see the next major audit investigation report coming out of Tom Wagner’s office!) but they can be harder to find.
I did go ahead and submit this as a tip to Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office as I wrote this article. In the vein of full transparency, I am including screen shots of my tip:
When I write about this kind of stuff, all too often charter school supporters start defending the schools and say I am picking on charter schools. While this most likely isn’t a Sean Moore kind of deal, it is symptomatic of what is wrong with our education funding oversight in Delaware. I’m not looking for the causes as much as I truly want a solution to these kind of problems. I would love to stop writing about these matters. So Governor Carney, I am throwing you the gauntlet one more time: are you ready to talk about this or do I need to keep writing?
Yes, a group of Delaware charters are trying to strike gold over the charter funding issue. Which charters? Newark Charter School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, First State Montessori Academy, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Gateway Charter School, Great Oaks, Kuumba Academy, MOT Charter School, Odyssey Charter School, Providence Creek Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School. As well, there are a handful of parents suing on behalf of their minor children. Below are the complaints filed against Christina and the Delaware DOE. There is also a motion to expedite proceedings. I have not had time to fully read these, but I will after the ESSA Discussion Group meeting tonight. This is going to turn Delaware education on its ear!
At the May 2016 Board of Directors meeting for Academia Antonia Alonso, there is a reference to a shooting threat at Kuumba Academy. Their meeting was on May 23rd. But from Kuumba Academy, there is complete silence on the issue. Why am I reading about this on another charter school’s board minutes? Maybe because Kuumba has not posted any board minutes since early May. In researching this situation, the News Journal did cover this threat on May 18th.
A text message sent to parents Tuesday said there was a threat of a potential shooting at the building posted on social media.
In the 2015-2016 school year, there were three charter schools in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington: Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy, and Great Oaks. Why did the News Journal only mention Kuumba Academy in the article when three schools occupy the building? But an even bigger question is this: was texting the only form of communication given to parents? What if a parent doesn’t have a cell phone? I know, the odds of that are somewhat slim these days, but it is a very real possibility.
I’m sure this is old news to many, especially in Wilmington, but I saw nothing on Kuumba Academy’s website addressing this. As I mentioned, their board minutes haven’t been updated since May. They are in violation of Delaware law. They haven’t put their financial audit up since 2014. They are in violation of Delaware law. They have not put their monthly financial information up since June. They are in violation of Delaware law. They are required, as a 501c3 non-profit corporation, to put their IRS Form 990 on their website. No 990s exist on their website. They are in violation of Delaware law. I can go on Guidestar.org and see those 990s, but that isn’t the legal requirement in Delaware. While their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee has met regularly and minutes are posted for that, within the minutes there are questions from the Delaware Department of Education’s required member (also required by Delaware law for every single charter school CBOC), but the answer wasn’t submitted in the minutes.
I do not understand why Delaware charter schools are not required to follow the law. The law may say it, but if no one enforces it, what is the point? Charters in Delaware are now required, as of today, to record all board meetings and post them on their website within seven business days. Two charter schools, Early College High School and Academy of Dover, had board meetings tonight. I fully expect to see their audio recordings up by September 6th. But for Kuumba Academy, they are missing a lot of the requirements in Delaware code. I plan on going through all the charter school websites tonight to see who is in compliance and who is not.
In terms of the Community Education Building, I can understand why Academia Antonia Alonso left the building. They begin their 2016-2017 at Barley Mill Plaza.
The Delaware Department of Education continues their self-righteous Rodel led agendas. In their latest corporate education reform press release, Godowsky and the gang announced the nineteen members of the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program kicking off this year. I find it more than a coincidence that most of the districts who got these positions are very tight with the “Leader In Me” program. The only districts selected were Capital and Appoquinimink. Three charters are joining the bandwagon which are MOT, Kuumba Academy and Odyssey.
At their April board meeting, the Capital Board of Education tentatively approved going forward with this program. But they had deep concerns about setting up competitions in schools. They cited the very controversial Delaware Talent Co-op Program from a few years ago and how it caused many problems among teachers. As well, the board was concerned with the amount of time the selected Teacher Leaders would spend out of the classroom and how additional substitute teachers would need to take their place. The principals of these schools were very enthusiastic about the program. Both are “focus” schools, one of the latest “turnaround” labels thrown at schools over low state assessment scores. In a sense, I don’t blame these principals for doing what they can to get their schools out of these false labels put on them by the Delaware DOE. If you go to the Capital board audio recording from their April 20th board meeting, click on the second audio recording link, and the discussion begins around the 1:22:03 mark. When asked how much the program would cost, Superintendent Dan Shelton mentioned the stipend teachers would get but also that the training would take up the bulk of the costs. A figure of $50,000 was thrown around.
The only schools in Capital who are instituting this pilot program are Towne Point and East Dover Elementary. Towne Point is a huge advocate of the “Leader In Me” program. Fairview Elementary in Capital also has this program. Appoquinimink School District brought Leader In Me to Delaware. Payments for this program are made to a company called Franklin Covey. Many of the teachers at Towne Point who advocate for this program are also members of this Teacher Leader pilot program. One of them is also very involved with the Rodel Teacher Council. I have no doubt this teacher is an excellent teacher, but when you see one name associated with so many things I can not support, it is hard to draw the line between saying nothing and pointing it out. I fully welcome any discussion with this teacher about anything written in this article, especially the part I write about later on.
The Delaware General Assembly passed their budget bill in late June with an appropriation of $800,000 in state funds going to the recipient districts and charters towards the Teacher Leader program.
What I don’t understand is how the DOE can move forward with a program that is contingent on approval in the State Budget. The funds for this state grant weren’t approved until late June. But here we have the DOE sending out invitations to apply after Spring Break. For Capital school district, students came back after Spring Break on April 4th. They gave schools a very short time to apply for this program, a matter of 25 days. What was the insane rush behind this? I will touch on this later, but for now check out the press release from Alison May at the DOE:
First teacher leaders announced
Nineteen teachers have been selected to serve as teacher leaders in a pilot program launching this school year. The program is among the first of its kind in the nation to take place at the state level.
Providing this kind of teacher leadership opportunity was among the recommendations of the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers. During his administration, Governor Jack Markell has championed the creation of a compensation system that makes Delaware educator salaries more competitive with neighboring states and rewards teachers for helping their peers to best support our students.
“Through this pilot, teacher leaders are provided a career pathway that both rewards educators for excellence and provides opportunities in formal leadership positions,” said Markell, who recommended funding for the pilot in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget that was approved by the General Assembly on June 30. “Through these roles, teacher leaders will use their skills to support schools where they need it most: helping other educators develop their practices and better prepare Delaware’s students for college and careers —all while allowing teacher leaders to maintain a foot in the classroom and earn additional compensation without needing to take on administrative roles.”
The Governor joined Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky today at Appoquinimink High School in Middletown to participate with members of the pilot in a discussion about the coming year.
The five teacher leader roles to launch this year will support educators in the following areas:
· Instructional practice leads will improve the instructional practice of fellow educators using a variety of high-impact support strategies focused on frequent, targeted feedback in educators’ development areas.
· Digital content leads will help educators build their instructional technology knowledge so more students have access to technology that helps improve their academic outcomes.
· Instructional strategy leads will introduce new instructional strategies into schools to help educators meet their learning needs and help schools meet their academic goals.
· Community partnership leads will help students gain access to services designed to improve their physical and mental health, giving them a greater chance at academic success.
· Instructional culture leads will help schools build a philosophy around culture, discipline and culturally responsive teaching.
Schools across Delaware were invited to participate in the teacher leader pilot. A nine-member committee representing educators, administrators and external partners selected eight schools and those schools created selection committees that designed a rigorous, multi-stage process to meet their schools’ needs and choose the 19 teacher leaders.
Each school is identifying a set of goals that teacher leaders will work toward. This summer, teacher leaders and school leaders came together to meet other pilot participants, plan pilot implementation for their schools, and learn more about teacher leadership to ensure a successful launch this fall.
“Being a novice teacher can be overwhelming at first, especially when it comes to lesson planning and classroom management. That’s why we want to use this new position to target support for our novice teachers in these areas,” said Kirsten Belair, who will work as an instructional practice lead at Odyssey Charter School.
The 2016-17 teacher leaders are:
· Amanda Alexander, instructional culture, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Colleen Barrett, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Chelsea Baxter, instructional culture, Kuumba Academy (Charter)
· Kirsten Belair, instructional practice, Odyssey Charter School (Charter)
· Lindsay Bouvy, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Michelle Duke, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Carrie Howe, community partnerships, MOT Charter School (Charter)
· Melanie Fauvelle, digital content, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Michele Johnson, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Kris King, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)
· Heather Patricco, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)
· Heather Mann, instructional practice, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
· Shana Noll, instructional practice, MOT Charter School (Charter)
· Crystal Samuels, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Katharine Sawyer, instructional practice, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Krista Seifert, instructional culture, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
· John Tanner, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Kady Taylor, instructional strategy (K-8 reading), Kuumba Academy (Charter)
· Tamara Walker, instructional strategy (K-8 math), Kuumba Academy (Charter)
How does a member of the Selection Committee manage to get selected for this program? Can you answer that for me Michele Johnson? Why do I constantly see the names of the aforementioned Michele Johnson, Robyn Howton and Jennifer Nauman attached to so much Rodel/Vision stuff and now this selection committee? Under whose authority did you allow schools to apply for this before any decision was made granting the authority by legislative decree to a public committee or before the funds were even appropriated for this program? Can you answer that for me Angeline Rivello? Or do you answer to Donna Johnson? Because there is a crystal clear reason she was cc’ed on this email. Who chose the selection committee for a program that, once again, wasn’t even approved? Your email said there was a chance to get a “wide diversity” of schools but we have only one Kent Country district, one New Castle County district, and three New Castle charters. How did that work out? What was the rubric for scoring applications? How many applications were received? Did the selection committee read every single application or what it divvied up among the selection committee?
I think it is past time the DOE fessed up on their sneakiness and manipulation. Secretary Godowsky PROMISED a greater degree of transparency and open communication coming from this Department, and all I see are more lies, secret agendas, emails to select individuals with no public awareness, funds committed to things before they are even approved, focus groups or special meetings with no public notice, no minutes provided for certain things, or even links to certain groups (hello Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition). Meanwhile, you allow charters and districts to allocate money wherever they want with no true oversight, browbeat the auditor’s office until a good woman is put on leave while charters get away with financial murder, manipulate the ESSA regulatory process by claiming to have true stakeholder input when it is really just school administrators and lobbyists, force a school report card scheme on our schools without any regulatory authority to impose it, and have our students take a test that judges everything and the students don’t even take the test. Secretary Godowsky, I don’t care what anyone says, you are a HORRIBLE Secretary of Education. This kind of crap makes even Mark Murphy look okay in comparison. The rot in YOUR Department still exists, more than ever. This happened under YOUR watch. I hope the pieces of silver from Rodel and Markell were worth it…
Angeline Rivello, when I announced Chris Ruszkowski was leaving the DOE, a lot of teachers in this state reached out to me and they expressed how they wanted to give you a chance and hoped the stink from the TLEU would disappear. It is stronger then ever.
Donna Johnson, this just once again proves what I have always known: you don’t believe in transparency and you are well aware of everything that goes on in the Townsend Building. Does your beloved State Board know what you know? How the hell are you even still employed there? All of you are liars, plain and simple. There is no other justification for your actions.
Governor Markell, you tricked us again. You are a mastermind at turning something that looks good on the surface into a tangled web of lies and deception. If I had my way, I would impeach you even though you have less than five months in office.
If those in Delaware thought maybe I would temper things down eventually, my commitment to exposure in this state has NEVER been stronger. Every single day I see the corruption and fraud going on in our state. This isn’t a democracy. We have the most corrupt and vile state government in the country. None of this is about our kids. It is about power, position, and money. You all need to start coming clean before I find out about it. Because if you think only a few Delaware teachers and parents read this blog, you are VERY wrong. You have no idea, no one does, who is watching all of you. Recording every single thing I come out with, just building a very large and thick file.
And I do have a final item to throw out there. How can three contracts, which I can only assume may play into the total of $800,000 for Section 362is program which answers some of my questions for the funds involved in this sham, be signed on the following dates: 4/19/16, 4/21/16, 4/26/16, 5/2/16, 5/4/16, 5/10/16, 5/11/16, and 5/23/16? If these are for this program, and the General Assembly had not approved the funds for this program, how can you have contracts starting before the Joint Finance Committee even released their budget? Or should I assume the Rodel Foundation will be the one training these teacher leaders? With funds from the Vision Coalition? Or should I say Schools That Lead? Because when I look up Schools That Lead’s IRS 990 tax forms, it comes up with 990s for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Since Schools That Lead wasn’t really around then, care to take a guess what company comes up? The Vision Network. And if this description of their purpose doesn’t fit the bill for this Teacher Leader Pilot, I don’t know what does:
When I first started digging into education stuff in Delaware, I remember reading an article on Kilroy’s where he wrote about talking with Jack Markell in 2008. Kilroy wanted to support him, and he asked Markell flat-out if he was going to stop the spread of Rodel into Delaware education to which Markell said he would. Jack lied Kilroy. He lied to all of us. Rodel runs the education show in Delaware. They have for 12 years. Every single decision made in Delaware education has been at the behest of the Rodel Foundation since Jack Markell took office. Together with their order-takers at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Christina Cultural Arts Center, Governor Markell’s office, and the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, they have single-handedly turned Delaware education into a billion dollar corporation. And our kids lose more and more every single day. Because their minions have infiltrated every charter, every district, every state agency, and even our General Assembly. We gave them this power. Now, it is time to take it all back.
Revenge is ugly business. When it takes place at a very high state level and the object of that revenge gets a whole article about it in the state’s biggest newspaper, it is really ugly.
Today, James Fisher and Matthew Albright published an article about the Auditor of Accounts, Kathleen Davies. The article claims Davies was put on leave over two months ago due to not using the state procurement card for travel expenses. According to the story, sources who would only be named as “state employees” contacted the Office of Management and Budget, then run by Ann Visalli, in November of 2015. They alleged Davies spent over $7700 in travel expenses (over four years) and received personal reimbursements instead of using the state p-card. She did do this. But was it wrong? Absolutely not. I’m not buying any of this. Let’s take a close look at what else was going on at the time these “sources” (as the News Journal calls them) filed this complaint.
Davies had just come out with a report on many charter schools, not just Delaware College Prep (the only school mentioned in the article). Kuumba Academy was also named in the report on personal reimbursements as using funds against the accounting policies of the state. Two other charters did not have any inappropriate use of state funds: Odyssey Charter School and Thomas Edison Charter School.
But there was more going on at that time. The reports on Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy had not come out yet. The September 30th enrollment inspection was just beginning (which was published earlier this Spring and pulled from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s website after Davies was put on leave). Another Delaware charter school, The Delaware Met, was under formal review. Hearings and meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee took place in November and December of 2015. One of the big questions surrounding Delaware Met was how they were spending their money. And by default, their operation management company, Innovative Schools, would also be looked at.
There was also an inspection released by Davies on December 7th. This surrounded an anonymous tip about Delaware Department of Education employees abusing travel expenses. No wrongdoing was found in the inspection report. But why would the News Journal not mention such an important part of this timeline in their article as well as the actual inspection? If this accusation by sources who have now become “whistleblowers” was made to the OMB in November of 2015, this would have been the same time when Davies would have been working on the DOE travel expense report which came out on December 7th. The timing on this is uncanny!
If it took six months for Davies to be put on leave, what was the OMB doing for six months? Why did Davies just happen to be put on leave at the same time the DOE was pitching a conniption fit about the September 30th Inspection Report written by Davies? The report, published by Wagner’s office on May 5th, can be found here. Why did Wagner pull the report which had absolutely nothing to do with her supposed reasons for being put on leave? Which other pending audits was Davies working on? I do know the answer to a couple of these, especially one that I submitted to the auditor’s office. John Fluharty, the policy analyst from the Auditor of Accounts office, contacted me on March 17th to discuss the tip I sent that office. I talked to him on March 18th with what I knew. No follow-up has taken place since then nor has any report been released on my tip. I find that to be very odd…
And then we have the charter school audit bill crisis. Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams released three different bills in the first part of the 148th General Assembly. The first two were stricken in lieu of the third one which passed the Delaware House on June 30th, 2015. It’s next destination was the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Delaware Senator David Sokola. Prior to the second part of the 148th G.A. beginning last January, rumors began circulating that Sokola was going to introduce his own charter school audit bill. With his friends at the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Sokola crafted new legislation which weakened Williams bill considerably. Williams and Sokola battled publicly on Facebook over the bill, resulting in an eventual compromise a few months later. They both met with Davies, who supported Williams bill, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network. The new legislation, House Bill 435, passed both the House and Senate and awaits Governor Markell’s signature.
But the biggest question is this: what did Davies do that was so wrong, that would warrant such a drastic action? While the guidelines regarding travel expenses published by the News Journal said the state prefers state employees use the p-card, it doesn’t rule out personal reimbursements. Furthermore, the article states she told employees she was doing this. If you have something to hide, you don’t tell everyone in the office!!! The only way she would have been reimbursed for those travel expenses is if someone approved it and saw the receipts. Who approved the expenses? More importantly, where is the fire here?
Davies was not put on leave over this. This is a cover. The whole thing reeks of corruption at a very high level. Tom Wagner won’t talk about it because it’s a personnel issue. So how did the News Journal get the story? I can tell you this: I was contacted by an employee of the Delaware Department of Education who asked me if I heard about Kathleen Davies. This was on May 26th, a week after the September 30th report disappeared. This employee said “word is she had a falling out with Tom Wagner. And won’t be back.” Now I hear from sources all the time about different state employees. But how is that a DOE employee would have intimate knowledge of a situation between Tom Wagner and his second-in-command? And how in the world would they know Davies wouldn’t be returning? That would indicate a conversation took place with someone from the State Auditor’s office with either an employee of the Delaware Dept. of Education or an employee of the State Board of Education for that much knowledge to come out for what we are being told is a “personnel issue”.
This is my firm belief: someone was very frightened about an audit inspection Davies was working on. Something that would make someone or several people look very bad. This person would have to have the power to be able to pull strings with an elected official to get Davies put on personal leave. Because this fabricated nonsense about personal reimbursements is absurd. Other state employees do it. Even our own Governor was mentioned in an audit report for not following state accounting rules with travel. Was he put on leave? Hell no! Was Tom Wagner put on leave when it was announced he “accidentally” let his own house go into foreclosure? Nope.
I’ve been going through all district and charter expenses the past few weeks and I can say with certainty that any travel expense amounts incurred by Davies are a drop in the bucket compared to what they spend. And I seriously questioned one district about an outrageously high amount in one coding area. No response on that one over two weeks later. So why target the one person who has the ability to produce reports that can put others in a very bad light over financial abuse? I believe I just answered my own question. To pull this off, that takes a serious amount of cunning and guile. Someone with pull and motivation. I would have to think Ann Visalli would know that other state employees use personal reimbursements for travel expenses. I don’t know much about her, except to say she resigned shortly after Davies was put on leave. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Who resigned before the budget passed.
As for Kathleen Davies, I hope she gets the vindication she deserves from this oh-so-obvious smear campaign against her. This is a woman who has spent most of her time at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office finding actual situations of financial abuse and scandal. Most of them have been against charter schools. Delaware Military Academy report in 2013. Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep reports in 2015. Providence Creek Academy, EastSide Charter School and Prestige Academy in 2016. And potentially more. But for those reading this smear article on Davies in the News Journal today, they won’t know all of this stuff going on behind the scenes. So if you read this, please share it so all Delawareans can know that Kathleen Davies is deserving of much more respect than this. I am positive she has enemies in this state. Those who expose the truth often do. Those who do wrong fear exposure more than anything. So who did Davies frighten so much that they would go to these lengths to remove her and tarnish her good name?
Updated, 6:12pm, 7/31/16: This article has been updated to reflect there was no wrongdoing on the part of Gateway Lab School in any audit report. This was an error on my end, and I did write an article to apologize to Gateway regarding this.
Four Delaware charter schools will have to return funds based on 28 students they received funding for from the state based on not meeting specific criteria for those students. Yesterday, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released the final report of a statewide audit on the September 30th Enrollment Counts which determines how many units a school gets for salaries, energy costs and equalization funds. The report does an excellent job of describing how funding in Delaware education actually works without needing an advanced accounting degree to understand. The report showed the biggest problem is inconsistency with the districts and charters on how to submit the data as well as no specific requirements for the school or district unit count coördinator to even attend the training offered by the Delaware Department of Education.
Four charter schools were specifically called out for not having the proper documentation for early Kindergarten entrance students. This is for students who are considered gifted and talented and are not the age of 5 by August 31st, as required by state law. The Auditor of Accounts found 28 students at these four charters should not have been counted in the unit count and the schools should return the funding they received for those students. The charter schools were EastSide (11 students), Family Foundations Academy (12 students), Kuumba Academy (3 students), and Delaware College Prep (2 students). Given the fact that EastSide and FFA are run by the same executive director, Dr. Lamont Browne, and that over 82% of these unlawful unit count claims are occurring at the schools he runs is very troubling. As well, the Board President is the same at both schools: Charles McDowell. FFA already had an audit report released late last year based on the prior school leaders massive fraud and theft of school funds. Kuumba Academy was spotlighted with irregularities based on an inspection report released last year. Red flags came up over unauthorized compensation for the Head of School and a custodian. Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed by their authorizer, Red Clay Consolidated School District, and will close at the end of this school year. They were also mentioned in the same audit inspection as Kuumba with unauthorized reimbursements to their Board President.
One thing the report showed, which I was not aware of, was the role special education service providers play in the unit counts. According to the below report, providers such as speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, school psychologists and other providers are based on the following:
1 unit per 57 Regular Education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade, Basic Special Education students 4th-12th grade, and Regular Education students 4th-12th grade
1 unit per 5.5 Intensive Special Education students
1 unit per 3 Complex Special Education students
If there is one thing I have heard in Delaware it is how schools are unable to provide these services consistently, especially for basic special education students. This is an even bigger problem with having the unit formula be the same for Kindergarten to 3rd grade basic and regular students. But all students in basic special education from Kindergarten to 12th grade are not given any advantage over regular students in receiving these services. This is a major problem and I would urge any legislator to remedy this problem immediately!
The report also highlighted the role Innovative Schools plays in enrollment counts. The Auditor of Accounts felt Innovative Schools should not be the agency conducting the enrollment counts but the school unit count coördinator. They advised either way the accountability falls on the school leader. Several charters and a scattering of traditional public schools were mentioned in the report in various sections covering details such as training participation for the unit-count system and having a clear policy manual on the process. The full report is below.
The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.
Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.
First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.
Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.
Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.
With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
Three of the five charters that submitted major modification requests to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education got the green light today. The Charter School Accountability Committee held their final meetings with the three schools today. All three received a recommendation of approval from the committee. The State Board of Education will make the final decision at their March meeting.
Two other schools that submitted major mods have meetings tomorrow with the CSAC. Prestige Academy has their last meeting and Academia Antonia Alonso has their first. Another school, Odyssey Charter School, submitted a minor modification for enrollment changes but Secretary of Education Godowsky exercised his authority to give them the CSAC treatment. They also meet with the CSAC tomorrow.
Should the State Board approve all these modifications, many students will be in flux next year. First State Montessori will increase their enrollment significantly. Two other charters submitted minor modifications for up to 15% increases: Great Oaks and Kuumba Academy. They only need Secretary approval and not the State Board. Prestige, Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, and Delaware Design-Lab will decrease their enrollment. Academia Antonia Alonso will actually move their location from the Community Education Building. This is on top of Delaware Met closing in January and Delaware College Prep closing at the end of this school year. In December, Red Clay’s board approved a modification for Delaware Military Academy to start increasing their enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year. Who needs a freeze on new charter applications when the Delaware DOE becomes Grand Central Station for Wilmington charter school students?
The Community Education Building is a building in Wilmington that was donated by Bank Of America about five years ago to hold up to four Delaware charter schools in downtown Wilmington. With only three charters in the building and one of them looking to leave, how long can the property sustain itself? According to the Kuumba Academy board minutes from December, the situation is beginning to look a bit dire. They can’t even afford to stay open past 8pm in the evening or a proper playground for the elementary school students there. Both of which, as noted by Kuumba and Academia Alonso parents, is making the school less than desirable for its tenants. The other tenant, Great Oaks Wilmington, is not too forthcoming in their board minutes. This could actually explain a few things.
So either the CEB is choking on its own financial weight and will eventually shut down if they don’t fill it up pronto, or there are other plans afoot. Knowing the folks involved, I would go with the latter…
Both Kuumba and Great Oaks submitted minor modifications to increase their enrollment by less than 15%. Anything above that would call for a major modification. As well, remember when Dr. Teri Quinn Gray went crazy about the Christina priority schools at the December State Board of Education meeting? Remember when the State Board didn’t take action on the WEIC plan at their January board meeting? Remember way back when a lot of people were saying the purpose of the priority schools was to get them into the Community Education Building? Only thing with the last scenario is the CEB can’t fit six schools into it. But they could certainly fit two or three. Like two or three from the Christina School District, in Wilmington. But there is a moratorium on new charters, right? But how would that work if the DOE took definitive action against the Christina School District over the priority schools if the WEIC redistricting plan doesn’t pass? Would an existing charter take them over or would something new be created? Or I could be completely wrong and perhaps the Charter School of Wilmington would move to the CEB. Yeah right, like they would ever give up their sweetheart deal with Red Clay for the space they have now! After all, didn’t Governor Markell say, when asked where Wilmington students would go to high school, he presumably laughed saying “The Community Education Building!” Questions to ponder.
The big question this week will be who the State Board of Education wants to please more: WEIC or the folks at the CEB. And when I say CEB, I also mean Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Longwood Foundation, Welfare Foundation, etc. From what I’m hearing, a lot of those folks aren’t too happy with the WEIC plan and want it to disappear…
For now, read the board minutes. I would love to see this whole strategic plan the Community Education Building has. I’m fairly sure someone will be reaching out to me on this one. Aretha is Aretha Miller, the Executive Director of the CEB. There DuPont is duh, a DuPont! Raye is Raye Jones Avery who is very connected in Wilmington with pretty much everything, especially the Rodel Foundation…
Not long ago, Sean Moore was at the top of the world. He was a co-Head of School at Family Foundations Academy. Together with Dr. Tennell Brewington they ran a successful school. To the outside world, the school was doing well. It wasn’t at the top of the heap, but it wasn’t at the bottom either. In the Fall of 2014, everything changed when FFA had their charter renewal. Everything came out: the parent complaints, the conflicts of interest between the school leaders and members of the board, and of course, the financial abuse.
A little over a year later, and Sean Moore has the term “finance professional” on his Linkedin account. According to the Auditor of Account’s report, released over a month ago, Moore and Brewington still haven’t paid back all the funds they owe the school. But Moore was able to have enough funds to start his own business, Planet Beach Contempo Spas. He is listed as the franchise owner. Aside from his time at FFA, from July 2008-January 2015, most of Moore’s experience has been in business. In fact, twenty years ago he was an auditor himself!
With all that business experience for twelve years prior to FFA, why would he risk it all by embezzling funds from a charter school? This is just a guess, but I would surmise he was doing it for so long without getting caught he most likely thought he never would be. Like many citizens in Delaware, I am wondering when some type of charges will be announced against Moore and the other charter embezzlers. Academy of Dover’s Ex Leader Noel Rodriguez, Brewington, Moore, and just added to the list last week, Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy. And we haven’t heard anything about those with lower offenses but still considered to be abuse of funds by the State Auditor’s office: Sally Maldonado with Kuumba Academy and the executive director and board president at Delaware College Prep (who will be shutting down at the end of the school year as Red Clay’s board did not renew their charter in December).
I find it ironic Moore is praising his business acumen and starting his own business. I’ve said this a million times, but if it was the average citizen, we would be in jail by now…
That didn’t take long. The former New York City superintendent of schools, who is now the Acting US Secretary of Education is coming to Wilmington on Friday. Have any Secretaries of Education ever bothered to check out our schools outside Wilmington? Anyways, John King is coming to Kuumba Academy this Friday, and afterwards he is having a chat with civil rights leaders. Probably about opt-out and how we can fix the low-income, poverty-stricken schools with more corporate education reform, personalized learning, less assessments that actually help, and more Smarter Balanced type tests to keep the hedge funders nice and rich. Throw in some competency-based education for good measure… I’m sure the Governor will be in attendance as well.
And once again, only “credentialed” journalists are allowed. For God’s sake, keep the damn bloggers away!
John King is Acting Secretary because the US Senate will never confirm the guy. Talk to New Yorkers who are against education reform and they will tell you stories all night long! Of course he is going to Kuumba Academy in the Community Education Building. Maybe he would have gone to Delaware Met had they not shut down three days early. That would have been an eye-opener!
Here is the official press release from Alison May down at the DOE:
ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION KING TO VISIT DELAWARE FRIDAY
Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King will visit Wilmington Friday as part of his Opportunity Across America tour to discuss the state’s efforts to improve and reduce testing.
King will visit a classroom at Kuumba Academy Charter School prior to joining two roundtable discussions at the Community Education Building in Wilmington. The roundtables will include an assessment discussion with district and state leaders and legislators as well as a second meeting with civil rights advocates.
Credentialed journalists are invited to join King for the following:
9:20 a.m. Classroom visit (Kuumba Academy)
9:30 a.m. Hour-long roundtable discussion about better assessments
10:40 a.m. Press availability
10:55 a.m. Hour-long roundtable discussion with civil rights advocates
Members of the media who would like to join the visit should RSVP to Alison.May@doe.k12.de.us by noon on Thursday, Jan. 21.
A few months ago, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found some red flags with Kuumba Academy in regards to misuse of financial funds with their overpayments to their Head of School, Assistant Head of School, and their Custodian. There wasn’t much that came of it, but upon looking at Kuumba’s October board minutes, I found a very interesting section dealing with this audit.
Raye Jones Avery is the Vice-President of Governance for the board, Sally Maldonado is the Head of School, and Ken Brown is the Vice-President of Facilities for the board. What is so suspicious about the “timing and tone of the report”? Given the splurges at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, it would stand to reason the State Auditor would want to look at charter school spending of procurement cards. I’m not sure what the DSCN is, but I am assuming it was a misspelling of the Delaware Charter Schools Network based on a Google search and seeing several others misspell this abbreviation. This non-profit vehemently opposed Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit legislation, House Bill 186. As well, even if the findings were “out of scope”, of course the auditor’s office is going to do a “scope” around the school’s finances given what has gone on at several Delaware charters. I love the arrogance of some of these charter leaders and board members. They will do anything to escape accountability! They make it seem like this was all some witch hunt. The Auditor’s office found something, and it wasn’t good. Instead of taking your lumps, especially the Head of School who seems to have escaped unscathed from all this, they sit around at a board meeting talking about it. In sharp contrast to this was Providence Creek Academy, who proactively found an issue, reported it to the Auditor’s office, and fixed the problem so it wouldn’t happen again!
And I apologize if I am going “out of scope” on this article, but I couldn’t help but notice the Teach For America and Relay Graduate School love going on at this school in the very same board minutes…
I have to say it is very sad when I see a school debating which teachers are better, TFA or Relay. I will just leave it at that…
The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez. The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover. Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases. And that was just the verified amount. Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware. That is some serious coin!
Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools. *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher. Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there. Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet. Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.
Many are wondering why the three are not in jail. Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing. Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter. This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office. Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators. The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques. When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.
In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse. Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools. In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds. While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many. Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!
*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up. Apologies for the error!
Behind the scenes in Delaware is a woman who had a VERY busy 2015. Kathleen Davies is the Chief Administrative Officer at Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office. She is the name on all the inspection reports for Delaware charter schools. Academy of Dover. Delaware College Prep. Kuumba Academy. And yesterday’s Delaware Department of Education inspection (of which they were cleared). She even has a pending audit investigation with Family Foundations Academy.
These actions did not go unnoticed by one Delaware State Representative. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 186 (after going through a few revisions) to mandate charters go through the State Auditor’s office when contracting for auditors. It became one of the lightning rod bills of the season, which prompted Davies to testify to support the bill. She told the Delaware House Education Committee the situation with the charters was worse than they could imagine.
During this time, the Academy of Dover audit inspection was finishing up. When the report was released, all the Delaware major media picked up on it. Former Principal Noel Rodriguez had used well over $160,000 in school funds for personal purchases, along with numerous other egregious activities. In October, Davies released a report on four charters. Two were cleared of any wrongdoing, but Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy had some nasty findings. And apparently, while that was finishing up, her office was working on the report on the DOE!
With Delaware Met’s pending charter revocation, will the auditor’s office step in? While their closure has more to do with academic and organizational reasons the financial picture is not pretty at this point. And that whole real estate deal is begging for an investigation. I hope though, for Davies sake, her charter school audits decrease in 2016!
Charter school financial abuse. It happens. All the time in Delaware. It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes. These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket. But our State Government allows this to happen. Delaware has no Inspector General. Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass. And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it. State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits. Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no. It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first. Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.
These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District. Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done? These are not elected board members at charters. And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members. Many of the charters websites are a joke. Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up. No charter board records their meetings. No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that. None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time. The average citizen would in a New York minute. But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us. We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.
Let me get one thing straight. I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE. I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools. I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses. The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?” But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it. But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment. It has become a joke. The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools. And the results of all these reports are always the same.
The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group. If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card. If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?
And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.” While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business. Children are not a profit center. They go to school to learn. They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank. They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board. If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education. I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later. And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this. About all this education nonsense in our state. You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell. You answer to the people that elected you. The people are sick of the abuse and scandal. And we are waking up. Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong. It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something. Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January. Stop the fraud playing out in our state. Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.
*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats. The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.