Las Americas ASPIRA Submits Modification Request To Add High School & Increase Enrollment

Rumors began circulating in the fall that Las Americas ASPIRA Academy would be submitting a major modification request to add high school grades.  What I didn’t count on were the huge amount of fallacies and grandiose boasting within the application itself. Continue reading

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Margie Lopez-Waite New Head Of School At DAPSS But Is Colonial Backing Out? Conflicts Of Interest All Over The Place!

After waiting an extra ten days to put up the audio of their June board meeting, the future of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is once again in doubt.  Immediately into their board meeting, Margie Lopez-Waite resigned as President of their board and was than voted into the new Head of School position. Continue reading

What Is Margie Lopez Waite Doing Now? And Is A 3rd Charter In The Mix With Her Plans For DAPSS & ASPIRA?

Will a Wilmington charter school become embroiled in the ongoing saga of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Las Americas ASPIRA Academy?  Many are saying yes. Continue reading

You Are Cordially Invited To Hear The DOE Talk About The Plans At DAPSS

Attention, attention!  Hear ye, hear ye!  Let it be known throughout the land that the Delaware Department of Education will be taking part of a question and answer session with parents of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security tomorrow night at the school!  Also attending will be Principal Herbert Sheldon and Director of Public Safety David Wainwright.  You know, the two guys who were given their walking papers last week. The soon-to-be leaving Denise Stouffer who runs the Charter School Office will also be attending this once in a lifetime (literally because she is leaving the DOE at the end of this fiscal year to run Providence Creek Academy) event.  If you didn’t get your parent letter about this, the meeting starts at 6pm in the all-purpose room of the school.

So what is on the agenda? As per their website:

The Academy’s vision and mission is not changing
DAPSS is not becoming ASPIRA High School
Personnel changes were due to enrollment, budget, and certification requirements
Personnel committee has been formed and is actively working to provide insight and will release public report on or about May 24, 2018

Rumor has it Board President Margie Lopez-Waite will not be in attendance. Which, if true, is certainly interesting. Especially since the reasons for this meeting are based on changes she began. I would think she would attend, but perhaps she has to recover from their board meeting last week. I did check the Las Americas ASPIRAS website and I do not see anything scheduled for tomorrow evening which would prevent her from attending. Their board meeting is on Thursday. But it does look like the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be given to students all week long. I’ve always loved how many charter schools get to take it later in the year when the students have more instruction towards the tests. But I digress.

So why is Denise Stouffer going in Margie’s stead? Beats me. Is she also on the personnel committee that will get so much insight in a week? I did hear she went to the school last week and talked to students and told them not to believe the horrible and nasty lies on the web. In other words, all those social media posts and this very blog. Denise and I have a history. A weird one. Not the easiest person to get a straight answer from. So good luck with THAT tomorrow night DAPSS parents! Not sure what would be more important for Margie that she wouldn’t squeeze this into her schedule. It could be personal, but since she created this pony show I would think DAPSS would hold it on Tuesday or Wednesday night. But what do I know? I’m just a damn blogger.

Come one, come all.

Charter Nepotism At ASPIRA & DAPSS

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security will have a new Director of Instruction as of July 1st.  Deborah Panchisin resigned as an Executive Director of Instruction at Appoquinimink School District last month, effective July 1st.  Greg Panchisin is the Chief Operating Officer at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy.  Greg and Deborah Panchisin are married.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the Head of School at Las Americas ASPIRA.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the current President of DAPSS’ board.  Margie Lopez-Waite is slated to be the next Head of School at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Margie Lopez-Waite proudly boasted of having someone lined up to take over the position of Director of Instruction a few months ago at a Charter School Accountability Committee meeting when DAPSS was under formal review.

This is what happens when anyone is allowed to insert themselves into a leadership role at a charter school.  They cause chaos and use personal connections to hire who they want and who cares if it is a very personal connection.  Because they are two different schools, it is not against the law.  But it is certainly a manipulative and scummy move.  Please continue to tell me this is “for the students”.  Margie Lopez-Waite played the Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Board of Education.  And Secretary Bunting.  And they fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The Panchisins make a combined income of $245,000 in their current roles.  Deborah Panchisin makes $136k at Appoquinimink.  Greg Panchisin makes $109k at ASPIRA.  Say she gets a pay cut for her role at DAPSS.  They would still most likely be making a combined income well over $200k.  I imagine that handling instruction for 200 students as opposed to many more at Appo would be less work.  Less stress.

This is Delaware…

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: Freire, Las Americas ASPIRA, Positive Outcomes, and Thomas Edison

Three more charter schools.  Two in New Castle County, one in Kent.  One centers around Spanish language skills.  Another is a special education theme.  One originally began with a theme of zero tolerance with school discipline but changed its tune.  One had a ruckus last fall when their school leader was placed on leave because he wanted more pay for teachers.  Continue reading

State Board Saves The Day For Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

The State Board of Education, with a 5-0 vote and 1 abstention, declared Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will not close.  The State Board’s vote gives DAPSS another year to prove themselves.  But there are new conditions.

The Charter School Accountability Committee recommended the school stay open for another year as long as they have a student enrollment of 200 students by May 1st, along with other conditions including utilizing their partnership with the Colonial School District.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting agreed with CSAC’s recommendation with many revisions.  She agreed with everything the CSAC recommended but wanted to know by June 29th if Colonial or Las Americas ASPIRAS would help to fill vacant staff positions and a transition plan should the school choose to make Colonial it’s .  This must be in agreement with Colonial.  If the board doesn’t meet all their conditions by June 29th, their charter will automatically be revoked.  Bunting wants more transparency with the whole process.  She also wants all teachers to be certified and the charter handed back to the Delaware DOE by mid-2019 so they can begin the transition to Colonial.  Bunting had a total of eight conditions.

State Board President Dennis Loftus requested monthly reports to the State Board.  His biggest concern was, if the school should close, that students would have enough time to transition to different schools by the new school year.  State Board member Wali Rushdan said he was satisfied with Bunting’s recommendation and this allayed many of his concerns about the staff being certified and highly qualified.  He expressed the need for a strategic plan, one of Bunting’s recommendations.  Executive Director Donna Johnson asked about the recommendation concerning Colonial and ASPIRA helping out with staffing vacancies.  Charter School Office Director Denise Stouffer clarified they would receive support by those highly qualified instructors from Colonial or ASPIRA.  Loftus wanted to make it clear that DAPSS would either transition to Colonial for charter authorization or they would cease to exist.  What happens if Colonial changes their mind?

I predicted this would be the outcome but I was happy to see Secretary Bunting add additional recommendations.

 

CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control

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

The Behind The Scene Plans To Save DAPSS & What The DOE Isn’t Telling Us

On the surface, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is toast.  But many key players in the Delaware education world are busy making plans to make sure that outcome does not happen.  How do you get a school way below enrollment to survive?  You partner up and you do it fast! Continue reading

Colonial, Red Clay, Christina, Brandywine, Woodbridge, Caesar Rodney, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Kuumba & Great Oaks Are Big Winners In Carney’s Opportunity Grants

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 CenterPhillis 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.

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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.

Which Charters are Suing Christina and the Delaware DOE?

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!

Can A Superintendent Of A School District Join A Charter School Board?

To my knowledge, this is a first.  A New Castle County school district Superintendent has been nominated to join a charter school board.  I know board members from a traditional school district are not able to join a charter school board, but I don’t believe there is anything in Delaware state code that would prevent a Superintendent from joining.  With that being said, I believe this would be a HUGE conflict of interest for both the charter and the district.  Continue reading

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy Charter School Performance Award Application

The LAAA school as they are commonly known (okay, I’m just too lazy to type it again) wants $250,000 to hire special education teachers for a “co-teaching” environment.  While I love any school beefing up their special education department, I have to ask why they haven’t had them for six years, and how will they budget this in other years?  And don’t schools get IDEA-B funding for this very purpose?  If they have 100 students on IEPs, where is the portion of that allocated to those teachers going?  Hmm…paging the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE….

So they want $235,795 for four special education teachers which amounts to an average salary of $58,948.75.  And what is the going rate for special education teachers in Delaware?  The median range is $55k, so they are close to the target, but I would have to think the funds for that would come from other funds already allocated to the school when it comes to special education.

And here we have another charter school that made $283,000 from the charter school transportation slush fund over a two year period!