Still Breakin’ The Law: Laurel School District, Charter School of New Castle, DAPSS, DE Military Academy, Eastside, Early College High School, & Freire

Hey, I know I got some districts and charters moving last weekend when I posted how they were not following state law in putting up their board audio recordings, but some of you didn’t get the message!

So… Laurel School District, Charter School of New Castle, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware Military Academy, Eastside Charter School, Early College High School, and Freire… I will do this as much as I can until you are COMPLIANT with the law!

State law says you must record your board meetings and put them on your website within seven days.  No excuses, no exceptions, just do it!  I would have loved to go to your websites and not have to write this article.  Yeah, I know, I’m a pain.  But guess what?  I’m not breaking the law!  And until someone from the state calls you out on breakin’ the law, I’ll continue my citizen audits!  Transparency Rules!

And Laurel, you need to put up your board agenda.  That is a big FOIA no-no!

Audit: All School Board Agendas, Minutes, & Audio Recordings; Caesar Rodney, Brandywine & Laurel Are Breaking The Law Big Time!

Transparency in public education is a must.  When more than a quarter of Delaware’s state budget goes to public education, the citizens expect, and rightfully so, transparency.  But some of our districts and charters struggle with transparency.

I haven’t done this since 2016, but I thought it was a good time to see how Delaware’s traditional school district and charter school boards were doing with transparency on their websites.  I checked for board minutes, board agendas, and board audio recordings. Continue reading

Laurel School District Salaries Over $100,000

One of the southernmost districts in Delaware, Laurel school district’s population is increasing at a modest rate.  But it also has a very large percentage of low-income students.  As well, they are dealing with a fast growing population of English Language learners.  Many districts in western Sussex county face the same issue with property assessments bearing a large burden on local taxpayers.  The way the system was set up decades ago has winners and losers.  For Laurel property owners, they lose big.  As a result, the district is forced to tighten their money belt the same time their population is growing.  Four years ago, only the Superintendent made over $100,000, now there are five. Continue reading

Sussex Montessori School, If Approved, Will Bring A Second Charter School To Sussex County

The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School.  For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River.  By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods.  Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.

Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement.  The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation.  They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank.  If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.

I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out.  Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013.  Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education.  But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support.  Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year  (2018) and 450 students by 2023.

Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago.  There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists.  With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class.  It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source.  Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.

Laurel School District Parents: How To Opt Out & Refuse The Test NOW!!!

This is an important message for ALL Laurel School District parents: You need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  If they started already, do not let them take one more second of this test.  Refuse The Test!  The Network of Public Education is calling for a National Opt Out of these high-stakes tests.  They aren’t effective at all, and everyone knows it.  These tests are being used for nefarious purposes.  Do not believe the lies coming out of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education.  They care more about corporate profit than your child.  It doesn’t matter if your kid is smart.  It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican.  What matters is your child, and their education.  This is not education.  It is a mockery of education.

Please give the principal of your child’s school a letter on Monday morning indicating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Let the school know you want your child to receive academic instruction while the other kids are taking the test.  If they tell you that you can’t opt your child out, look them in the eye and say “Yes I can, and if you make my child take this test I will call the police.”  To get support from other parents, please join the Opt Out Laurel Facebook page.

Poverty Matters! Smarter Balanced Impact: The Sussex Academy Effect

Sussex Academy, the only Delaware charter school in Sussex County, was one of the best Smarter Balanced scoring schools in the entire county.  This is not an accident, nor is it an indication they are the “best” school in the county.  Like the Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy was named in the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware last December for discrimination against minority and special needs students.  Or what the blogosphere collectively calls “cherry-picking”.  The school is smack dab in the middle of Sussex County.

SussexAcademyMap

On the Delaware Department of Education school profiles part of their website, it shows the school’s demographics.  Sussex County has a very large population of Hispanics.  Western Sussex County is considered one of the poorest sections of the state and that trend is expected to increase over time.

SussexAcademyProfile

In previous articles, this blog and Delaware Liberal have focused on New Castle County, Capital School District, and all the Delaware charters.  Our graphs have shown the effect low-income and poverty has on Smarter Balanced performance.  Unfortunately, this trend continues in Sussex County as seen below. Since Sussex Academy is primarily a middle school (although their high school is increasing, with 9th grade added two years ago, 10th grade last year, and 11th grade this year), I ran the graph with just the middle schools surrounding the school.  Sussex Academy appears to be siphoning away the “better” students from their surrounding districts.

SussexCountyPLISBAC

To put this in perspective, Laurel Intermediate School is currently a Priority School in Delaware, which slipped under the radar of most bloggers until recently.  Meanwhile, Sussex Academy is praised by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE as a great success.  All schools would be considered awesome if they were allowed to do what Sussex Academy does with their application process and mythical “lottery”.  Like Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter School to some extent, the veil has been lifted and these schools are not superior schools.  They have merely placed themselves on that stage by picking who they want, and more importantly, who they don’t want.

While their Hispanic population seems high, 9.6%, compared to many of the other schools, it is very low.  Sussex Academy is in Georgetown, the same as Georgetown Middle School.  Watch what happens…

SussexHispanic

In theory then, does the same hold true for the percentage of English Language Learners in Sussex County?  Not exactly.  Even though a few schools have less Hispanic students, Sussex Academy has the lowest percentage of English Language Learners.

SussexELL

How does Sussex Academy compare to the other schools with special education?  I’m sure you know the answer already, but there is a very wide margin between the school and the others.

SussexSpecEd

In fact, they are in the low single-digits compared to the schools surrounding them.  When I see this, it always reminds me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when young Forrest tries to find a seat on the bus and the one kids says to him “Can’t sit here.”  This is what Sussex Academy does with their blatant discrimination against low-income students, Hispanics, and students with disabilities.  But I’m sure they will be recognized as a “reward” or “recognition” school for their exemplary performance…

Laurel School District Cuts Superintendent John Ewalds’ Contract Four Months Early

The Laurel School District Board of Education has voted to remove their Superintendent John Ewalds and pay for the rest of his contract through the end of this fiscal year.

Kelli Steele with Delaware 105.9 FM writes:

“Delaware 105-9 has confirmed that because of the recent resolution passed by the Board, Ewald will be relieved of his duties as superintendent, effective March 2.

Current Delmar High School Principal Shawn Larrimore will replace Ewald as superintendent and the current Delmar High School Assistant Principal Ashley Giska will become the assistant superintendent of the Laurel School District, effective July 1.”

Details about Ewalds’ dismissal were not given in the story.  However, on Frank Calio’s blog, Frank Calio wrote Larrimore signed a contract for the supervisor position as early as January 26th.  The Laurel Board did not advertise for the position, and according to Calio:

“Their attorney was asked to find the answer; the answer their is no code, law or anything else that requires an advertised search, it is the boards decision.”

To read the link from Steele’s article, please go here: http://www.delaware1059.com/story.php?id=15014

To read the link from Frank Calio’s Blog, please go here: https://frankcalio.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/laurel-school-board-buys-out-ewalds-contract/ and here:

https://frankcalio.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/former-laurel-football-star-named-laurel-superintendent/#comments