In a letter dated to parents on June 2nd, 2017, Christina School District Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa sent a letter to parents advising that Kirk Middle School Principal Brian Curtis was placed on leave. The letter did not indicate if the leave is a paid leave or not. In conducting a search for more information, I found a post on Facebook to the Christina School District Facebook page where a parent asked the district if he was fired for embezzlement.
When you go to Christina’s Facebook page, all visitor posts are now gone. I tried to submit a post asking where they all went and received a message that it would be reviewed. But the post still shows up on Facebook’s search engine. I edited the picture just for basic privacy rights of the person who submitted the question although it is public information on Facebook. The response to the parent post by the administrator of their Facebook page was 10:55am on June 2nd. The timestamp of the PDF letter sent to parents was 11:53am on June 2nd.
Curtis worked at the Delaware Department of Education for four and a half years in the school turnaround unit (i.e. priority schools) before he was hired to become Principal at Kirk Middle School in 2015. He replaced outgoing Principal Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District. Curtis never updated his LinkedIn page with his new position. I searched for any recent news or events with Brian Curtis in Delaware and found nothing. While I am sure the district will not release any information pertaining to a pending investigation, this could not come at a worse time in Delaware as the General Assembly is in the final stages of preparing their FY2018 budget which has a current deficit of nearly $400 million dollars. Many school districts and state agencies are feeling the pinch as budget cuts are expected throughout the state.
In recent years, Delaware school district and charter schools have gone through many audit investigations due to financial abuse of some sort at their schools. Charter schools Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Delaware Military Academy and the closed Pencader Business School as well as the Indian River School District and Sussex Technical School District have all had reports from that office since 2013.
While working on another article about a situation not related to this one at all, I stumbled across the Facebook post which led me to the announcement about Curtis being placed on leave. While a question posed by a parent does not give any clear picture of wrongdoing, the fact the school district deleted the ability for anyone to see it on their main district page along with all other visitor posts IS cause for concern.
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…
Aside from Governor Markell, the most talked about name in education in 2015 was Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy. When he took over the position from Lillian Lowery in 2012, there was skepticism. For three years, we watched Murphy and his minions at the Delaware Department of Education disengage with their stakeholders: teachers, administrators, parents, and students.
After the priority school controversy came to a head in the Christina School District, the opt-out movement in Delaware began to rise. It was around this time that both the Red Clay and Christina Education Associations had a press conference announcing a vote of no-confidence in Mark Murphy. Not long after, both the Delaware State Education Association and the Delaware Association of School Administrators announced the same verdict.
When House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation, became a huge topic of conversation, Murphy publicly stated on the Larry Mendte hosted The Delaware Way that parents were not allowed to opt their children out of standardized testing. I remember after the debate at the Senate Education Committee, a participant who had never seen Murphy before and was not involved in Delaware education, asked me if Murphy was alright, if there was something wrong with him.
In the early part of the summer, it was revealed the Red Clay Consolidated School District was not getting their promised funding for their three priority schools. As rumors go, this was the final nail in his secretarial coffin. By the middle of the summer, Murphy announced he was “retiring”. No reason was given, just that Murphy was going to pursue other opportunities. Meanwhile, his LinkedIn account still shows him as the Delaware Secretary of Education. The Race To The Top was over, and so was Mark Murphy.