My Email To Delaware Senators About The Highly Flawed Pay For Success Legislation

Last night I wrote an article about the Delaware Pay For Success legislation, Senate Bill #242.  I stand firm in my convictions and I am calling on ALL Delawareans to contact their Delaware Senator and urge them to either table SB 242 or vote no today.  The more I thought about this legislation, the more disturbed I am with it.  Say the Pay For Success program an investor initiates does not reach its objectives.  The state won’t pay the investor for this “project”.  But what happens with all the data collected during the program?  Does the investor get to keep that?  As we all know, in the 21st Century, data is currency.  It is bought and sold all the time.  When that data concerns children, we have cause to worry.  The whole point of the “investment” could very well be the data collection that comes with it.  We see massive data collection on pre-schoolers in these kind of programs going on across the country.  Investors love social-emotional learning and are investing millions of dollars for that treasure trove of data collection on students.  Children.  Think about that.

Let this sink in for a minute- the person pushing this the most is a DuPont.  A member of a family that is worth billions of dollars.  Someone with deep connections and the ability to snap their fingers so things go his way.  His brother already runs Zip Code Wilmington, a coding school.  There runs the Longwood Foundation.  He is heavily involved in the Delaware Community Foundation which funds the Rodel Foundation.  We need to wake up and question motivations here.  They are already “invested” in Delaware education.

Good evening distinguished members of the Delaware Senate,

I am urging you to table Senate Bill #242.  This bill, dealing with Pay For Success programs in Delaware, is being fast-tracked through the General Assembly. 

My concerns with the bill are the eventual forays Pay For Success programs will make into public education.  While this bill is being touted as an economic development bill (which I support), it will also be used for “social programs”.  There are not enough safeguards in this bill to prevent potential fraud and abuse.  I also believe any programs like this, that would use our children as guinea pigs for an investor, is fundamentally and morally wrong.

I have put out the call for Delaware citizens to attempt to stop this bill.  But given that it was introduced Tuesday, released from committee today, and will be on the Senate Ready list tomorrow does not fill me with hope.  I attended the committee session today and voiced my concern.  I was pretty much told to trust the system and if problems arise those could be fixed later on. 

This is a huge program that the general public knows NOTHING about.  It was put in a committee that does not usually generate much citizen traffic aside from lobbyists.  There was no big splashy article from the News Journal on this bill as we see so often with other bills.  It is my contention the intention was to get this through as soon as possible which is not a sign of transparency whatsoever.

I put up an article on Exceptional Delaware tonight which goes more in-depth with my concerns.  I urge you to table this bill or even vote no on it.  I am not opposed to some parts of the bill, but I believe it should be held over until the 150th General Assembly.  Let the public weigh on it.  Let’s do some research into who this benefits.  Please, let’s look at some of the very controversial ways programs like this are being used.  The Salt Lake City program, run by Goldman Sachs, is praised by the investment community.  But the data in that program was flawed to begin with.  And it dealt with finding ways to reduce future special education services for students with disabilities.

I respect both the prime sponsors on this legislation, but it needs to be looked at very carefully before we rush into this sort of thing.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

I contacted Mike Matthews from the Delaware State Education Association and urged him to have DSEA weigh in on this bill.  After I emailed all the Delaware Senators, I forwarded the email to all of the State Representatives.  I begged them to do what is right and to do their due diligence with this legislation should it pass the Senate.

Good evening members of the Delaware House of Representatives,

I sent the below email to every single member of the Senate.  Several other Delaware citizens are sending similar emails to them as well.  If this bill should happen to pass the Senate tomorrow with no changes, it would fall on the House to do what is necessary.  I am not 100% opposed to this bill.  But there are very real dangers that will come out of it.  We talk about unintended consequences with education all the time.  While this is not an education bill, it will dip into that sector.  Please do what is right.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

I spread the message far and wide last night.  The clock is ticking.  If you want to take action and contact your Delaware Senator but aren’t sure who they are, please go to this map: Who is my Delaware State Senator?

I have no doubt defenders of the bill are emailing the Senate at this very moment saying things like “This is a great bill that will help the Delaware economy”, or “This is from a blogger who thinks everything in education has some nefarious motive”, or “Just ignore him”.  So I will ask the Delaware Senate this question: do you value children or profits?  Because you have the chance to do something good here.  To do what is right.  Do it!

The Senate adjourns at 2pm today.  It is #7 on their agenda but bills can be switched around.  Time is running out…

Uh-Oh! Financial Trouble At Delaware Charter Schools Network?

In a recent email to parents, the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked parents to donate money to keep them going. They have been around for well over a decade now and they have never tried to raise funds like this to my knowledge. They normally receive funds from the Delaware charter schools that send annual dues and grants from other non-profits like the Rodel Foundation or the Longwood Foundation.

As we end the week, we begin something new! As the only Charter Support Organization in Delaware, the Delaware Charter Schools Network advocates for and supports all of our schools – but as I have told you all before, we cannot do it alone. We need support too. To that end, today we are launching our first-ever crowdfunding campaign! Our goal is to raise a total of $20,000 to help us with programming that we provide.

Because it is our first campaign, we thought it might be easier to break this into milestones – and our first is to raise $5,000 in the first week. Would you consider becoming one of our first supporters to help make it happen?

While $20,000 doesn’t seem like a ton of money for a non-profit, I have to wonder what the sudden need is for extra money? Did the rent go up at 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington? Did they lose funding from one of their grants? Are some charter schools deciding not to pay their dues?  Did their lobbying costs go up?

On the website for this campaign, it talks about how DCSN holds the Public School Choice Expo each year up in New Castle County. It appears they will have two in New Castle County, one in Kent County, and one in Sussex County this year as well.  The campaign, hosted by a company called Funderbolt, isn’t listed on the DCSN website which I found rather odd.  I would think they would put a link to it on there as well if they need this money so bad.  Even more odd, for a crowd-funding organization devoted to raising funds for schools, they can’t even spell the word “philanthropy” right.

To date, the campaign received three donations totaling $75.00.

While it is certainly legal for DCSN to hold this kind of campaign, and other organizations like the Delaware PTA rely on parent dues for their existence, this kind of outreach is unprecedented. Is this a sign that the charter world in Delaware is struggling?  Or did Kendall Massett see the cash-cow that is Basis Charter Schools in Arizona where they ask parents for $1,500 a year to “support teachers”?

Rodel’s Paul Herdman Has To Love His Insane $398,000 (And Counting) Salary! Plus: Rodel’s Friends Make Big Bucks Too!

Based on their 2015 tax filing, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Paul Herdman, makes an astonishing $398,000.  Keep in mind this was in 2015 so he is most likely well over that pesky $400,000 barrier.  Good lord!  I found lots of interesting stuff in this tax filing, signed off by Dr. Paul Herdman on May 12th, 2017.  As well, I looked up some of Rodel’s best friends and found TONS of information on them as well! 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.

Is A Settlement In The Works Between Christina And The 15 Charters?

Christina School District board member John Young announced on Facebook the Christina Board of Education will be holding an impromptu board meeting on November 30th.  The purpose of the meeting: to go into executive session and then briefly come out in public session to possibly vote on a settlement in the lawsuit filed against Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The suit was filed by 15 charter schools in early October who “claim” they weren’t getting their rightful share of Christina’s local funds and the Delaware DOE allowed this to happen.

I have a gazillion questions surrounding this.

Was this a settlement brought to Christina from the Charter cabal?

Was this a settlement offered by Christina to the Charter cabal?

Is the Delaware DOE part of this settlement?

Should Christina settle?

If they settle, would this cost less than a long drawn-out court battle and they won?

If they lost the court battle, would the judgment against Christina be less than what the charters want?

Why would Christina settle if their CFO Bob Silber said they did nothing wrong?

If they settled, is that an admission of guilt and would Silber resign?

What is the DOE’s role if this does go to court?

If Christina went to court and won could a judge rule the charters have to pay Christina’s attorney fees?

If Christina did settle would that mean the local funding formula would be how the charters wanted it at the beginning of the school year?

What do the legislators think of this news?

Is Betsy DeVos behind any of this? (of course not, but never hurts to ask)

If (and this is a BIG IF) Dr. Robert Andrzejewski becomes the next Delaware Secretary of Education, would this be seen as him clearing the deck for his stint in Dover?  Would it be ethical for him to even entertain a settlement if this is the plan?

Christina doesn’t have an agenda up for this emergency meeting at this point, but I would guess it is coming shortly.  As I reported a while ago, it appears the Longwood Foundation is paying for the charter school cabal’s attorney fees.  And if I know the ringleader of all this (think Greg Meece), I can’t picture him wanting to all of a sudden settle on this.  Could a third-party (say, a recently elected Governor John Carney) have reached out to everyone involved and basically said “work this out, I don’t want to start my stint with all this in the air”?

I need more details on this.  I think Christina’s board should let it ALL out in their “brief” public session on Wednesday night.

So, About Those Attorney Fees For The Charter Lawsuit…

Who is the benefactor to the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education?  You know, the one where the almighty (or are they?) charter schools want more money?  Led and initiated by Newark Charter School who got fourteen other charters to follow suit.  Literally.  As in a lawsuit.  But they had a little problem they had to take care of first.  The damn attorney fees.

I imagine taking a case like this would involve a lot of prep work and discovery.  Saul Ewing, LLP is the law firm representing the fifteen charter schools in their lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  As the named parties are represented by their own counsel, the charters would have to be able to definitively prove their case.  Or at least a perception of their case.  That’s what attorneys do.  Make a jury or judge believe their side of the story, whether it is right or wrong.  It is always about the belief.  But who is paying Saul Ewing for this lawsuit? Continue reading

How Newark Charter School Cooked Their Books To Break The Law In Delaware

Newark Charter School found a way to overtly break Delaware charter school laws and they are using parents and students to do it.

Yesterday, an anonymous source informed Mike Matthews that Newark Charter School’s student body activity funds are legit.  Be that as it may, they aren’t reporting the revenue generated from these activities.  Instead, they are putting at as an expense on their monthly budget.  They aren’t reporting this revenue anywhere.  But they are showing the expense on their monthly budget.  How much are they getting overall?  That is unknown, but I was able to find out they are using student body activity revenue to pay for items they should not be according to Delaware law.

Newark Charter School does not post a 990 IRS tax form on their website.  They are exempt from even filing this return.  Why?  Because way back during the Bill Clinton years, they had elected officials on their founding board.  Granted, none of those elected officials are there anymore.  No one has ever questioned NCS at a state level about this before and they just assume it is alright.  Even though the IRS issued very specific guidance to charter schools about this type of exemption.  But of course Newark Charter School takes advantage of this ambiguity.  Until the IRS determines they are not exempt, they will continue to not file tax returns.  Even though they should and the reasons for them not doing so are the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  On IRS 990 tax forms, non-profit corporations are required to show any revenue they receive.  They don’t have to pay taxes at all, but they are required to show their numbers.

There are a multitude of reasons why Newark Charter School would not want to file an IRS tax return.  They are the only Delaware charter school specifically exempt from this.  Academy of Dover had their corporation status rescinded by the IRS some years ago, but the Delaware Dept. of Education turned a blind eye to this glaring fact during the school’s formal review last year which was in part over financial viability.  Eventually, Academy of Dover was able to restore this status and are now filing their 990 forms on their website.  But Newark Charter School took advantage of the bogus loopholes in this IRS regulation and have had a field day with it ever since.

This was my biggest issue with any changes to House Bill 186, the original charter school audit bill.  My sense was that anything even associated with charter school audit legislation would only be tainted by Senator David Sokola.  This would somehow benefit Newark Charter School and keep their finances in the dark.  Anyone can make a budget and show numbers on it, but a true audit and an IRS return would show a lot of information.  They would have to report the revenue they receive from students or their parents for field trips and student body activities.  But they aren’t.  No one can see this information.  If they get such a huge amount of money from these activities, they should be fully transparent and post their revenue stream on their website.  But they don’t.

On their monthly budget sheets they are required by state law to post on their website each month, they list student body activities as part of their operating budget.  Operating funds are part of state and local funded expenses.  If they have students pay for field trips and they write a big fat check to, say, the Bermuda Institute, and put that as an expense in their budget, that means they are getting these funds from the state and local funds.  Granted, their budgeted amount for student body activities in FY2016 was $300,000 as shown in the below pictures.  But their budget forms the picture of how much money they will need to operate as a school.  This is the spine of any charter school or district’s operations.

Newark Charter School 7/2015 Monthly Budget: Revenue

NCS715Budget

In the above picture, we see the school’s projected revenue for FY2016 as of July, 2015.

Newark Charter School 7/2015 Budget: Expenses

NCS715Budget2

Above, we see their projected expenses. Note the Student Body Activities amount of $300,000.

Newark Charter School 6/2016 Budget: Revenue

NCS616Budget

By June of 2016, their revenues looked completely different.

Newark Charter School 6/2016 Budget: Expenses

NCS616Budget2

Their expenses, especially Student Body Activities went up as well, mushrooming to over $445,000. This was $145,000 over what they budgeted for this category.  As if it was almost planned…

This brings us back to the current situation at the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  As I wrote earlier this week, there is some shady business going on there.  Kathleen Davies had my tip about NCS and Academy of Dover’s lack of IRS 990 forms and I believe it was an active investigation.  I know this because I received a call from John Fluharty about it in March, two months before Davies was put on “leave”.  He wouldn’t call to get information if it was not active.  If that office was leaning towards NCS needing to put up their 990 tax forms, invariably the inspection would lean towards “Why aren’t they putting up this information?” which could further lead towards a full investigation of their finances.

Senator David Sokola has been the Senator for the 8th District since 1995. This district surrounds most of Newark Charter School’s five mile radius.  Sokola helped in the creation of Newark Charter School.  He even joined their board for a stint in the mid 00’s while also an elected Senator, which is perfectly legal in Delaware.  But in his stint as a Delaware Senator, he has essentially served as a buffer between the school and true accountability.  Sokola is a senior-ranking Delaware Senator.  Not only is he the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, but he is also the Senate Chair on the Bond Committee.  If you look at a lot of the legislation about education he writes, every single bill has benefitted Newark Charter School in some way.  I’m sure if you look at some of his non-education legislation, including ones about land usage, those would benefit the school as well.  This isn’t the first time I’ve thought out loud about Senator Sokola.

In my fictional novel I am working on about Kathleen Davies and whodunit, I would put Senator Sokola as the lead suspect in this mystery.  He has the means, the motivation, and the pull to get something like this done.  He is well-connected with the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Rodel.  Since he is also in tandem with many House and Senate Republicans over charter schools, it would stand to reason he would lend his ear to them and get a fire going.  As well, he has a very cozy relationship with the State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, this is to be expected, but he always seems to be able to get support for his bills that do more damage to public education.  His connections with the Delaware Charter School Network go back many years.  He has frequently been involved with the Rodel Foundation sponsored Vision Coalition.  He is a firm believer in standardized testing and teachers being judged by those scores.  He put in very damaging amendments to House Bill 199 a couple months ago based in large part on feedback he received from his beloved Newark Charter School.  He is no friend to traditional school districts.  As the Newark Charter School legislative cheerleader, he can count on votes from his constituents who have students attending that school.  With a student population of over 2,000 students, that is a lot of votes.  In exchange, he allows them to operate with no transparency, accountability, or oversight through his legislative input.

Now some will say Tom Wagner is a staunch Republican and Sokola is a Progressive Democrat!  How could Sokola convince Wagner to do anything?  He didn’t have to.  Somehow, someway, the “whistleblowers” in the Davies complaint to the Office of Management and Budget were told exactly how to get Davies.  This idea had to come from someone with advanced knowledge of the rules and regulations of the Delaware accounting procedures and policies.  We know Newark Charter School knew about what was going on with Davies and her “administrative leave” from the Auditor of Accounts office based on what they put in their June Board meeting notes:

NCSTravelReimbursementBdMtg

In Delaware politics and education, there is no such thing as a coincidence.  The fact Schlossberg would bring this up a month after Davies was put on leave is very telling in my opinion.  We know the Delaware DOE already knew about all this because one of their employees told me about in late May.  So if that person would tell an education blogger, it would stand to reason many in the state knew as well.  NCS, in their board meeting minutes over the past year, has been very diligent about discussing legislation that could impact charter schools (especially the charter school audit bills).  But to write about how Davies was specifically put on leave, something I wasn’t even aware of until last Saturday when the News Journal came out with their article, would suggest having very intimate knowledge of the case against Davies.  So much so that they wanted to adopt this into their board policies.  The News Journal article never even specified if their information was coming from their “sources” or the Office of Management and Budget.

NCS connection with Sokola would give them instant knowledge of anything going on at a statewide level.  But this has always been my big question about the charter school audit bills: why were they fighting them so hard?  Especially Newark Charter School?  Some answers can actually be found in the oddest of places.  Newark Charter School’s selected auditor for their annual required audits is Barbacane Thornton and Company.  As seen below, they do this work for many Delaware charter schools.

BarbacaneThorntonFY2016

In looking at this list, I see quite a few charter schools who have landed in hot water at the State Auditor of Accounts office: Academy of Dover, Delaware Military Academy, and Providence Creek Academy.  One of their lead accountants, Pam Baker, testified in opposition to Kim William’s third attempt at a charter school audit bill, House Bill 186, in June of 2015:

She said this bill takes away responsibility from the board to select (an) independent auditor and takes away the opportunity for charter schools to do that effectively.

Now why would someone who is hired by many of these schools to do their audits put her neck out there for schools she knew were under investigation?  As well, her statement basically said “they may not be able to hire the firm I work for” which would show a clear conflict of interest in her sworn testimony.  A lobbyist for the Delaware Charter Schools Network even spoke on behalf of the business office of Newark Charter School at this meeting:

Nitin Rao, DCSN, spoke on behalf of the business manager of Newark Charter School in opposition to the bill.

For a school that seems to have a great deal of extra revenue after their year-end expenditures each year, this was a head-scratcher.  Like many who felt the same way, I questioned whether the charters opposition stemmed from the cost involved with the legislation or more what these new audits through this legislation would find.

But what Kathleen Davies said at this meeting was the essential problem with the charter school audits in Delaware:

Kathleen Davies, Chief Audit Administrator at AOA, said AOA does not have any firms under contract that conducted any charter school audits. She rebutted that the IRS filing mentioned by Pam Baker is a non-audit service and those fees are not part of the audit work. She said there have been a lot of terms thrown around and the only requirement for charter schools, with regard to oversight, is GAP compliant financial statements. She said there are currently seven investigations on charter schools underway because of mismanagement of funds. She said fraud and abuse were never brought to anyone’s attention for these seven schools. She said AOA has subpoena power and a firm, under AOA contract, can be used to address the issues found. She said those seven charter schools got a “clean bill of health” with no findings and no body to identify issues. She said this bill would change that.

Notice Davies brought up IRS filings.  As we all know, Newark Charter School doesn’t even have to file with the IRS because of their “special” exemptions.  IRS filings require all sources of revenue.  Which brings us back to Student Body Activities.

If student body activity expenses are an item in the school operating budget, they are counting on this money from the state and local funds.  But the issue comes in when these student body activities are pre-planned field trips and events that students or parents pay for prior to the actual event.  I can certainly buy the notion that teachers or the school would have to pay for many of these events ahead of time.  And as Head of School Greg Meece is the only person in the school who has a state procurement card, teachers or the school would have to pay out of pocket ahead of time for these activities.  But to spend $445,000 in student body activities for a school population of over 2,100 students, there would be a bucket load of revenue coming in from field trip money.  This is the revenue we are not able to see.  At all.  Anywhere.  Trust me, I looked.  All over the place.  There is nothing on Delaware Online Checkbook showing any such revenue.  If this revenue was put back into the school, we would see it as negative amounts in their expenses.  But they don’t exist through the state accounting system.  Therefore, they are only showing the expenses of student body activities and not the income that comes back as revenue to offset those costs.

Without knowing exactly where they put that revenue, I can safely guess where they put the entire $449,575.29 they reported as “student body activity” on Delaware Online Checkbook.  They used that revenue to pay for the remaining amounts on two capital building projects they contracted with one company to perform.

In the fall of 2014,  Newark Charter School started talking about building a Performing Arts Center and a STEM Laboratory Suite.  Since these are capital projects, not minor capital improvements, they would not be able to get funding from the state as dictated by the Delaware charter school law.

MinorCapitalFundingLaw

So even though Newark Charter School received $273,447 from the General Assembly for FY2016 for minor capital improvements, they could not use it for projects of this magnitude and scope.  Since the Performing Arts Center would be an entirely new addition to the school and the STEM labs would require structural change to the building, these two projects did not qualify for minor capital funding.  So how much capital funding would they need to obtain for this project?  Quite a bit according to their application for the Delaware Charter School Performance fund in the Spring of 2015.

NCSCharterSchoolPerfFundAppl2015

As part of Delaware charter school law, NCS had to submit a minor modification request for these projects.  They did so, and it was approved by then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy according to their December 2014 board minutes:

NCSDec2014BoardMinutesMinorMod

But in their application for the minor modification, Meece either greatly underestimated the costs for the project or later added more bells and whistles to the whole thing.  Because the original projected amount was $853,088.  At no point in time did NCS resubmit a new minor modification based on the financial difference between the original amount and the projected amount, a difference of $636,061.  But the section of the application where it asked about financial impact on the school was very enlightening:

NCSMinorModApplication2014

Greg Meece and Joanne Schlossberg, their Business Manager, knew they would have to get a lot of money for this project and began working the foundation circuit.  They were able to obtain funding from the Longwood Foundation ($500,000), the Welfare Foundation ($125,000), and the Calder Foundation ($79,000).  They applied for $400,000 in the Charter School Performance Fund (even though the maximum amount any Delaware charter school could win was $250,000 that year).  They received the maximum amount of $250,000.  Even though they were able to generate a lot of funding in a very short time, they were still short from the budgeted amount.   By $535,149.00.  Since construction was already underway by this point, the school had to raise the remaining  funds for the projects or  use funds from their reserves.

In June of FY2015, the board’s treasurer stated the school was $668,000 favorable for revenue “due to the annual fund and pledges from the capital campaign”.  The school received the Longwood Foundation grant in June of 2015.  In July of FY2016, the treasurer stated the school was not $1,283,000 favorable in state revenue due to the grant funds received from the Longwood Foundation and the Welfare Foundation in FY2015.  As well as the other grants they received in June of 2015, they received the $79,000 grant from the Calder Foundation and $250,000 from the charter school performance fund in July of 2015.  At their September 2015 board meeting, it was announced the funds received from the Longwood and Welfare Foundations were received in FY2015 so they could not put this as revenue in FY2016 even though they budgeted these funds for FY2016.  This caused their revenue to be unfavorable in the amount of $961,000.  But they were going to amend their budget to make this happen.  While a lot of these revenue figures are all over the map, it is important to look at the $668,000 talked about in June of 2015.  If the school already had pledged amounts coming from the Longwood and Welfare Foundations totaling $625,000.00, it would stand to reason their remaining “favorable revenue” came from their annual fund.  Which leaves $43,000 they had remaining from their FY2015 annual fund which they committed towards this project.  This reduced their shortage for the two projects to $449,149.00.

Earlier this week, I posted an article about Student Body Activity funds and questioned why Newark Charter School is showing such a high amount for this.  Based on this article, I showed how a FOIA received by a Delaware citizen showed NCS as spending $445,000 in student body activities as of 7/2/16.  As of 8/2/16, that amount increased to $449,557.29.  Now if you notice the projected amount for the STEM Laboratory Suite in the above picture, that amount is for $449,588.  Almost the exact same amount as the expenditures for their student body activity.  If this fund is meant for just student body activities, they should not be going towards capital costs, such as the creation of a STEM Laboratory and a Fine & Performing Arts Center.  Delaware law is very specific about this and the business manager and Greg Meece are well aware of these laws.

How much did these two projects actually cost Newark Charter School? $1,512,599.08.  They contracted with Daystar Sills, a construction company in Delaware.  The difference between the projected amount in their charter school performance fund application and the actual amount was $23,540.08.

NCSBldgImprovDaystarSills

If you add up the following figures:

$43,000 from their FY2015 Annual Fund

$500,000 from Longwood Foundation

$125,000 from Welfare Foundation

$79,000 from Calder Foundation

$250,000 from Charter School Performance Fund

The total amount is $997,000.  Which leaves them very short of the eventual $1,512,599.08 those projects were going to cost.  We know, as of  their November 2014 board minutes, the school received $64,000 from an auction they had.  This was their 11th annual auction.

NCS1114boardmtg

They had their next auction in November of 2015, but at their November 2015 board meeting, Greg Meece did not give an amount of how much they generated.

NCSNov2015BoardMinutes

By not publicly mentioning how much they received in their FY2016 auction, they could leave this open for future use as they saw fit.  Since there was never a capital fund amount given, we would have to assume it was close to the amountselaw they received in prior years.

Since they are so short on this capital project, and we don’t know where the money is coming from to pay for the rest, watch what happens when we add this to the $997,000:

$449,575.29 from FY2016 Student Body Activity expenses

We now get a grand total of $1,446,575.29.  They are still short $66,023.79.  We can safely guess where those funds came from based on their FY2015 Audit with Barbacane Thornton & Company:

NCSFY2015AuditStmntOfNetPosition

Note how NCS received $77,226 in pledged monetary support in FY2014 and $67,812 in FY2015.  It would stand to reason they used their FY2016 pledge amount to supplement the rest of this bill from Daystar Sills.  The school could never use extra local reserve funds because those funds could only be used for operating expenses or minor capital improvements based on Delaware charter school law.  They could not be used for capital building projects.  Meece knew this, and Mark Murphy should have.  The fact that Meece applied for a minor modification for this huge project and didn’t know the true estimate of the costs, didn’t have the capital funding when he applied for it, and operated on the assumption that Mark Murphy would just take it at face value that the school could always fall back on local appropriation reserves speaks volumes about the arrogance behind Newark Charter School.  Meece and Schlossberg, in my opinion, knew exactly what they were doing with all of this.  They knew the project would be short and planned ahead of time.

In June of 2015, they budgeted $300,000 for student body activity.  This would have been a very good guess on the amount they would need to pay towards the final bill for this project.  Because at that time, they somehow thought they could get $400,000 from the charter school performance fund.  This turned out to be a huge error on their part because they had to somehow find a way to get another roughly $150,000 when they only got $250,000 from the performance fund.  This is how their Student Body Activity expense amount went from a budgeted $300,000 to a little bit shy of $450,000.  They actually planned for this amount, in my humble opinion, based on how the project was turning out.  Once they realized their error with the performance fund, they got to work.

To use a shell student body activity account to pay for Capital projects is an obvious violation of Delaware state law.  To never report the revenue they received from parents and students should be a violation of state law.  To use parents and students money to disguise illegal activity is fraud, pure and simple.  Because I am not a judge or a jury, I cannot say with 100% certainty this is exactly what Newark Charter School did.  If I were writing a fictional novel, either as part of the Kathleen Davies whodunit or a new one on Newark Charter School, because no criminal charges or official allegations of wrongdoing have been laid out by any type of legal authority in the State of Delaware, I would say there is most likely a strong connection to this activity going on at Newark Charter School and Kathleen Davies eventually being put on leave.  I believe NCS knew there was an investigation going on with their IRS 990 forms.  I believe they knew their exemption was a glass house that would eventually have many stones thrown at it.  While I don’t think it was a case of Senator David Sokola going to Tom Wagner and saying “You have to stop this audit inspection cause my buddies at Newark Charter School could get in trouble”, I do believe the goal was to slam the character of Kathleen Davies.  By doing so, it would undermine the audit inspections she already completed (the September 30th Enrollment Count inspection and the Millville Fire Department audits which were either pulled or redone).  As well, it would cast a doubt on audits already underway.  I believe the right amount of pressure was put on Tom Wagner by the Office of Management and Budget to get Davies put on leave.  Aside from the false accusations of Davies abusing the travel reimbursement accounts by not using the state procurement card, there had to be a confrontation to push Wagner towards that decision.  The accusations by itself wouldn’t be enough.  There had to be that one final straw.

The Delaware Department of Education wanted the September 30th Enrollment Count done.  When the report came out, they disagreed with Davies recommendations in the report.  They complained to Wagner.  This I do know.  What happened next, I can only surmise.  Wagner wanted Davies to change the report.  Davies said no.  Boom.

Once Davies was gone, Wagner could kill the petty cash audit which would have shown charter schools abusing the petty cash policies in the state.  He did that and instead sent letters to all the charter schools that violated the petty cash policy with no ability for the public to see those letters.  He pulled the September 30th audit.  He took out Davies letter at the end of the Millville Fire Department inspection report.  We don’t know what is happening with the Newark Charter School IRS 990 Form Audit Inspection.   I have to assume we will never see it.  Unless someone gives a very good reason why the school would strongly benefit from not filing such a tax return.  Someone would have to show how they hide things financially so they can get what they want.  Then Tom Wagner’s office would have to act fast and get into that school and investigate ALL of their finances, from top to bottom.  He would want to subpoena all of their bank deposits.  He would have to turn the information over to the Delaware Attorney General’s office and in an ideal world, that office would act on that information.  If any federal funds were found to be abused in the findings of this investigation, the FBI would have to get involved.  Since this school has been around fifteen years with no IRS tax filings, I would assume the FBI would be very interested in how much revenue this Delaware corporation has received and would want to account for every single penny going in or out of the school.  If the FBI didn’t have anything to go on, I would have to imagine the State of Delaware would based on the information they would get out of their investigation.  Not to mention the very shady and scummy enrollment practices this school has had over the years in their attempts to have perfect high-stakes test-takers.  In their isolated and non-transparent world with a five-mile radius around the flagpole at their high school, some of which goes into a neighboring state, but determines what students can or can’t go to their elite wannabe private school.  Where parents can afford to pay for extravagant field trips because they don’t have to use those funds for a private school because this school is so perfect.  In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have this.  But this isn’t an ideal world.  This is Delaware.

I have no doubt Newark Charter School is not alone in Delaware with these kinds of financial games.  I think it has happened quite a bit, and not just in charter schools.  I think it has happened in our districts as well.  Maybe not the same chess move NCS pulled on this one, but other moves designed to give an advantage of some sort.  We’ve seen it before and we will see it again.  Until someone turns the board over and makes new rules for the game.  That is what needs to happen in Delaware.  This is my mission and others have this vision as well.  We keep waiting for someone in power to step up and do the right thing.   All we hear is silence.

To see the full FY2015 audit for Newark Charter School, please see the below report:

Will The Community Education Building Shut Down? Not Looking Good…

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…

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Statewide Review Of Education Opportunities Highlights Charter School Cherry-Picking & Creaming

cherrypicking

Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools.  This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right.  When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities.  All of this is based in 2014-2015 data.  This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.

Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test.  It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.

The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  The result: complete chaos in Delaware.  While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County.  If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports.  They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick.  They cream from the top applicants.  And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique.  To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.

The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware.  This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state.  It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools.  Do not be fooled by this illusion.  Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores.  I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters.  This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state.  This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools.   Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom.  All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation.  While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.

This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned.  We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities.  We have other charters with very high populations of the two.  We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel.  We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it.  We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces.  We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this.  We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace.  This is Delaware education.

Delaware Charters Getting Whiney About Wanting Capital Funding For Construction Costs

Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal just wrote an article on Delaware Military Academy looking to expand.  During their charter renewal process, Delaware Military Academy (DMA) asked for a modification to increase their enrollment from 566 cadets to 715 over the next five years.  To do so, they would need additional facilities to hold the students.  They need capital funding to do this.  Delaware charter law explicitly states charters in the state do not receive capital funding.  Another Delaware charter, Odyssey, was highlighted in the News Journal a couple weeks ago for wanting this as well.  Albright wrote:

The school has a plan for how to expand, but it does not know yet how it will pay for it.  This is a common concern for charter schools because they do not get capital funding from state government like traditional schools do. That means charters must stretch their budgets if they want to build new facilities or make major renovations.

That is the way the law was written Matt!  Come on, you know this.  So why are you pandering to the charters?  I don’t see you asking citizens to vote yes in traditional school district school referendums.  This is just a big advertisement for the legislators.  This is how the charter community works.  They get the News Journal to write stories about what they are sorely lacking, right before the legislative session begins, in the hopes it will become an “issue”.  If I were the Red Clay board, I wouldn’t approve this modification if the school does not have the ability to hold the additional students and doesn’t have the funding available.  This is very poor planning on DMA’s part.  Crying poor after they submit a modification but before it is even approved shows poor judgment.

A recent bill which passed in the Florida House of Representatives would allow charters in the state to get 40% of the district’s funding for capital costs.  The capital funding part was just a part of a larger bill, but the bill had no controversy until the capital funding section was added.  Other highlights of the bill include:

The proposal would create the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation to help new charter schools. It would also make it easier for top-performing charter schools to replicate themselves in high-need areas and specify that charter schools receiving back-to-back Fs would be automatically closed.

This is something Commandant Anthony Pullella, the leader of DMA, is already pushing for.

Pullella isn’t calling for the state to instantly start giving charters as much capital money as it does traditional school districts. But he does believe schools should be able to earn some assistance if they prove they are effective.

He proposes, for example, a graduated system in which a charter could earn 25 percent of a traditional school’s capital funding after five years of proven success. It could progressively earn more the longer it continues to show it is successful.

I could easily see some of the legislators in Delaware trying something similar to what the Florida House just passed.  In addition, other parts of the Florida charter bill are taking shape in Delaware.  We are seeing this with the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  As well, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee recommended an organization to oversee all the Wilmington charter schools.

Charter schools were required to be models of innovation that local districts could emulate.  But the problem with the perceived success Pullella talks about is the fact that this is based on standardized test scores.  This is the barometer of all public schools success in Delaware.  There is also the question about the school population and how charters select their applicants.  Any school can be a success if the application process is flawed and only the best and the brightest are allowed in.  This is something quite a few charter schools in Delaware have issues with.  Including the biggest: Charter School of Wilmington, another Red Clay authorized charter.

But the big kicker is this: what happens if the school closes?  Since charters are considered corporations and they are not state-owned, the property would revert back to that corporation.  Any funding a state kicked in would be lost forever.  Something Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams brought up in the News Journal article as well:

“What if the school closes? Does the state get the building? It’s kind of a gray area,” she said. “DMA is very popular with parents. But they knew coming into this that that kind of funding was not available to them.”

Chances are we will see that exact situation play out in exactly one week when the State Board of Education will most likely revoke Delaware Met’s charter and have them close after this marking period ends.  While the school received no capital funding, they did receive $175,000 as part of the Delaware Charter School Performance Fund.  Money from this fund can go to capital costs with very little oversight.  We are now seeing, after twenty years of charters siphoning off more and more local school district dollars,  Delaware charters wanting to change the playing field even more in their favor.  Even though they get tons of money from the Longwood Foundation, they still want more.  Based on an illusion of success called standardized test scores.  And as usual, they find a public spotlight in the form of the News Journal.

When folks say I am anti-charter, I’m not.  I’m all about following the rules.  If it isn’t Family Foundations Academy squandering over a million dollars, or Delaware Met’s self-nuking a month after they opened, its stuff like this that drives me crazy about charters.  They brag about how great they are and act like they don’t have any money.  But DMA apparently had extra money to spend when they went through their own investigation with the Delaware State Auditor’s office a few years ago.  And lets not even get into special education at a lot of these charters.  They know exactly what I’m talking about, right guys?

I fully expect to see someone, possibly a Republican State Rep. or Senator, to introduce some crazy legislation like this in Delaware during the second part of the 148th General Assembly.  The big difference between Florida and Delaware is that the Republicans don’t hold the majority in the First State.  My recommendation to Delaware charters: stop whining about what you don’t have and looking for short cuts.  You know where to go to get that kind of money, so give the DuPonts a call.  Or one of the numerous charter-loving “foundations” or “non-profits” out there.  But stop asking an already cash-strapped state for more money.  And stop expecting to get more from the local districts.  Because at the rate you are “expanding” and “growing”, you are getting more of the local share of school district money than you ever were.  But what happens when those districts reach the breaking point, and they are no longer able to pass referendums?  Look at Christina as a model of this.  Cause if you don’t, you will end up shooting yourselves in the foot.

The one thing charters in Delaware do much better than traditional school districts is parent engagement.  I don’t think anyone will contest that.  But please, stop brainwashing these parents into reaching out to the media to get your way.  The bizarre cult-like fascination with some Delaware parents and charters is bad enough as it is.

As for the News Journal: please stop with your charter loving articles.  Yes, you write about the bad too.  But you try to bring issues up not because they are truly newsworthy, but because you are getting calls from the charter lobbyists who also happen to be aligned with your biggest advertisers.  It’s called bias, and it is well-known throughout the state.

Odyssey Charter School And Other “Successful” Charters Want Money To Grow

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article.  I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them.  And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.”  Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow.  While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?

Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article?  If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.

Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago.  But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information.  I’m just a blogger!  Should Odyssey get more money from the state?  Hell no!  Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State.  Enough.  They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.

Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.

Damn straight!  Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more?  After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts?  Sorry, you missed the boat.  Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation?  They are always giving away money to charters.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:

“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”

Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:

The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.

So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds?  I don’t see the state rushing to help them.  And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray!  I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:

“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”

The timing on this is impeccable.  The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer.  Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.

If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny.  Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.

Teach For America’s “Lead Delaware” Approved By State Board But Who Is Teach For All?

Yesterday at the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the Teach For America led “Lead Delaware” program.  At the September Delaware Professional Standards Board (PSB) meeting, the original application didn’t even get a vote by the voting board.  TFA redesigned the application which was approved by the PSB and several schools wrote letters of support for the program.  The highlights of the program can be seen below:

In listening to the State Board audio recording, Jeremy Grant-Skinner with TFA mentioned a partner called Teach For All.  This is essentially an international Teach For America, led by Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America.  Grant-Skinner talked about how they will bring some of their cohorts (Principal trainers) to different regions to learn best practices.

Kopp’s husband is Richard Barth, the founder of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools.  While there are no KIPP schools in Delaware, my fear is the more embedded TFA becomes in Delaware, it is only a matter of time before they invade.

I have been very vocal about my feelings on Teach For America embedding themselves in Delaware education, and this new Lead Delaware program is not the best thing for Delaware in my opinion.  First off, they will charge a $7,000 “service fee” to each program participant.  While TFA is saying there will be no costs from the local education agencies (school districts), I have to wonder where these funds will come from.  Perhaps Rodel or the Longwood Foundation?  Both have donated heavily to TFA Delaware in the past.  Here is the budget for each “cohort”:

Category Unit Cost ($)

Tuition/fees/related costs for partner courses (Harvard, WilmU, NAATE) 10,326

Costs for other partner organizations (Teach For All, TNTP, Jounce) 2,576

Principal Consultants 2,500

Excellent School Visits 1,750

Principal Mentors 1,000

Materials 750

Operating costs 17,024

Recruitment 595

Participant Fee (7,000)

Total 29,521

I also cringe at TFA even developing a principal certification program.  From their application:

Lead For Delaware’s candidate assessment process incorporates three types of assessment

data: (1) school leader competency ratings, (2) program completion and participation evidence,

and (3) standardized assessment scores. Cohort members must meet all criteria across these

three areas in order to be recommended for School Principal and Assistant Principal

certification (under Section 1591).

This program still has to be approved by Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  It is my fervent hope he sees past the obvious benefit for TFA and puts a halt to this leap-frog program for leaders in Delaware education.

Delaware MET Needs To Return Their $175,000 Charter School Performance Fund

First off, I don’t think any charter school that has not even opened should be getting a “performance award”.  They haven’t done anything yet.  Second of all, it is obvious their “long-term” strategy for this school didn’t work as they are closing a little over a month after they opened.  Third, if they don’t, I know at least two legislators who will be screaming foul on this.  And rightly so.  Finally, they should openly, honestly, and with great transparency return ALL unused funds immediately.

The Delaware
Met
$250,000 $175,000 High-quality plans for start-up or expansion; AND Serve high-need students Start-Up Costs Funds may not be used for marketing materials or mentor appreciation/exhibition events No

In the above chart, it was taken straight from the 2015-2016 list of Charter School Performance Award winners.  They requested $250,000 for “start-up” costs, even though they already received $250,000 from the Longwood Foundation in 2014.  They won the $175,000 out of the $250k requested.  In their application for the performance fund the school stated they needed a special education coordinator in the amount of $46,000.00 to “ensure we can meet the needs of our high IEP student population“.  Don’t federal funds coming under the IDEA-B allocation already cover that need based on how many special education students they already have?  This means the school already knew they would be having a lot of students with disabilities and they had not even hired a coordinator as of July 7th of this year, a month and a half before they opened.

The big question is where these funds even come from.  Do they come from the DOE, or somewhere else in the Delaware Government?  If you look at Delaware Online Checkbook, it shows them receiving $39.83 in revenue this year. These are funds that have already been sent to these schools. So where is the money and where did it go to? Why isn’t it being reported by the state?

To be on the safe side, I checked Kuumba Academy who received $425,000 last year as their charter school performance fund. This was announced after Fiscal Year 2015 started.  Even though the budget states the charter school performance fund comes from the General Fund, since the funds are allocated to a specific purpose (i.e. a special education coordinator), it would then go the Special Fund once the General Fund sends funds to that allocation. In the bill for Fiscal Year 2015, on page 59 of this pdf: Senate Bill 225 Final FY2015 Budget it shows $1.5 million allocated to the charter school performance fund, coming out of the General Fund.  But Kuumba shows no revenue in their General Fund for FY2015 on Delaware Online Checkbook.  So it had to come out of what is called the special fund. But the only special fund items listed with an amount higher than $425,000 are “Donation Contributions” of which Kuumba received $1,671,735.39. $500,000 of that was a donation from the Longwood Foundation at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015. And in their May 2015 board meeting minutes, Kuumba’s board announced they were getting another $1 Million from them as well. So that is $1.5 million alone in their “Donation Contributions” section which is the only place $425,000 could have possibly gone. But it doesn’t fit with $1.5 million being donated by Longwood, so where is it?

Even though the Delaware MET is showing less than $40.00 in revenue, that doesn’t mean the $175,000 wasn’t sent to them. It’s just a question of where, in the maze that is Delaware funding, the hell it is.  This charter school performance fund is one of the abominations that sprang out of House Bill 165 during the first half of the 147th General Assembly back in 2013.  Maybe the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly can get rid of this monstrous waste in taxpayer funds by next June, and save the state some semblance of money.

Newark Charter School Performance Fund Application

This one is VERY interesting!  The top prize allocated to any recipient of this performance award is $250,000, but Newark Charter School is asking for $400,000 to support the construction of their STEM labs and Fine Performing Arts Center.  Which is good, you can use this fund for capital costs.  And they are already getting funds from The Longwood Foundation for this:

The Longwood Foundation has agreed to assist the school in the renovations to the JR/SR High School for STEM and Fine & Performing Arts.

It’s not every school that gets Theire DuPont to come check you out!

Source: http://ncs.charter.k12.de.us/files/_FRAup_/2a0a2af04ad981653745a49013852ec4/Board_Minutes_May_19_2015.pdf

But let’s see what their application says:

And did they already get those funds?  What are “expense recoveries”?  It’s hard to say cause this doesn’t say where the funds are coming from….

NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL – NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL for FY 2015 Period 1 thru 11

Amount:
$1,711,393.56
Back to Search
Category General Fund Federal Fund Capital Fund Special Fund
FEDERAL REIMBURSEMENT $0.00 $436,118.73 $0.00 $0.00
INTEREST ON DEPOSITS $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $51,445.35
USDA DOE MEAL REIMBURSEMENT $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $107,661.92
EXPENSE RECOVERIES $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $1,116,167.56

And like their brethren school located in the Christina School District, Newark Charter School got to keep over $400,000 from the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund from the past two fiscal years…

Christina School District Should Apply For A Grant From The Longwood Foundation

Why not?  They already give millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  Is it even legal for a traditional public school district to do this?  I have no idea.  But I think the very nature of a referendum should not be legal.  Yesterday’s vote on the Christina referendum shows a clear disparity between traditional public schools and charters.  When a charter needs funds fast, there are many organizations willing to donate funds.  But when a district like Christina needs money, they have to beg for it.  The charters will say they need to beg, but when they get extra funds from transportation funds, non-profits, and even DOE awards, you never hear them offering solutions for the districts that give them their main source of funding.  Nearly 6,000 votes should not decide a source of funding for over 21,000 students and cause the termination of 200 teachers and support staff.

Legislators are already calling for change.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent out an email this morning in response to very concerned constituents in the Christina District:

I do not pretend to offer lip-service or support from a distance. I will meet with a House lawyer this Friday and plan to compose and consider legislation that may be offered immediately to help and legislation to create a task-force with a reporting requirement no later than Jan. 1 2016 to offer a plan to change Delaware public education funding structures and eliminate the referendum process. I am open and willing to hear any and all suggestions to accomplish that and will meet with your group at your convenience to discuss this. I want to thank you for all of your hard work in trying to secure a favorable outcome on the referendum and to specifically applaud all of your group’s efforts to dispel the lie and the implication that some unidentifiable flaw in Christina Board/Administration/educators should cause voters to pause before casting a ballot in support of the referendum. These types of references did much more damage and influenced many, many more negative votes than the weak whispers of support voiced by some leaders with the caveat that the district was corrupt, misusing funds or populated with malcontents. Once again thank you all for your reasonable and intellectually honest assessment of the needs of our public school children.

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko

With the topic of school funding already a hot topic in Dover, yesterday’s vote is just going to add fuel to a raging inferno.  Add standardized testing, opt-out, redistricting of Wilmington schools, special education funding, Autism, charter school audits, teacher evaluations, change in the Department of Education and Secretary’s roles, and how to protect our schools.  It is more than obvious that the biggest concerns in Delaware right now are around education.  Should the General Assembly extend their legislative session to deal with these crucial issues?  They essentially have five weeks left.  Three days a week.  With education committees meeting once a week for an hour or two.  They need to do more and act quicker.

Governor Markell’s “initiative” to reduce state tests, Parents Are Still Going To Opt Out Jack!!!

Delaware Governor Jack Markell went to William Penn High School in the Colonial School District to announce his Oh my God, parents are actually opting out in little old Delaware a new program to take a perceived serious look at all the necessary unnecessary state tests in Delaware.  From the official website of the Governor, along with my remarks in green:

Emphasizes value of requiring key assessments to track student progress while saying schools should end other tests

Wilmington, DE – Calling for the elimination of repetitive and ineffective assessments, Governor Markell today launched a review of tests administered by the state, districts, and individual schools with the goal of decreasing the testing burden on students and teachers and increasing the time available for teaching. The effort, announced at William Penn High School, addresses concerns of parents and teachers about the amount of time spent on testing and how those tests are ultimately used.Testing Inventory

“Our educators, our students, and their parents all deserve the benefits of effective assessments that show when students are excelling and when they need extra support,” said Markell. “At the same time, tests that don’t add meaningfully to the learning process mean less time for students to receive the instruction and support they need. We are committed to finding the right balance, and this initiative is an important part of that process.”

Jack, students are prepping for the Smarter Balanced all year long.  The curriculum is tied specifically to this one test.  The curriculum is horrible.  You are right, students do deserve the benefits of effective assessments, so stop relying on national federally mandated proclamations designed to weaken and corrode our local education authorities from effectively education children.  Love how you got the word “balance” in there.  Smarter Balanced….yeah, we get it…

The Governor noted that some local tests may repeat the purpose of statewide exams, while others may have outlived their usefulness but continue to be offered because administrators haven’t had the time or resources to fairly gauge their effectiveness.

Yeah, but students get the results right away, and they actually help determine what a child needs, whereas the Smarter Balanced is a once a year test, not given at the end of the school year, and the results won’t be back until shortly before the next school year starts. 

To support a statewide testing review, each school district will receive financial and technical support from the Department of Education to take an inventory of all assessments given in each school. That includes funding to pay someone to lead the review over the next four months. The state will also provide assistance in communicating new testing plans to parents, families, and communities.

In other words, we are taking over the whole testing atmosphere because we can’t have parents opting out.  The districts can’t fight this, so we will.  And look, more money to review this.  Let’s get yet another contractor who knows nothing about our schools to judge us!

“This is a particularly timely moment for us to discuss the role of assessments in our schools as we shift to an improved and less time-consuming statewide test this year,” said Murphy. “We must also provide our districts with the support they need to evaluate all of their exams so we can assure teachers and parents that we are tracking students’ progress while maximizing instructional time.”

Oh look, Mark Murphy is in the house.  Everything that comes out of your mouth is the same.  You have outlived your effectiveness in Delaware.  Please leave.  Once again Jack, 70% of the students won’t meet standard.  How is that improved?  You’ve been tracking students progress for years.  We all know that.  The difference is, on the grand scale, education has not improved that much for students in Delaware but I’m sure your stock portfolio has!

The state’s new assessment, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, will be given only once a year, compared to the previous assessment, which was offered up to 3 times a year. While the new Smarter Balanced test is more thorough, it will still cut total testing time by up to seven hours and take well under one percent of school hours per year.

Who determined the test is more thorough, the DOE? The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium?  The test vendor in Delaware, American Institutes for Research, who was also the vendor for DCAS?  When you look at all the prep time, interim SBA assessments, and keyboarding skills, you are talking a marking period.  1% my opting out @$$!

For the first time, the state will test critical thinking and writing ability – two of the most important skills students will need to succeed in their futures – instead of asking only multiple-choice bubble questions.Testing Inventory

“Is there too much testing? Absolutely,” said Rep. Earl Jaques, who chairs the House Education Committee. “This effort to look at the 70 percent of the tests that we control as a state is a great start to address this issue. We know there are good tests that are necessary but also need to identify which ones are redundant and can possibly be weeded out. I look forward to hearing back from the group on their findings.”

Start with the biggest one Mr. I’m on Jack’s Good List So I’m Going To Do Whatever He Wants And I Really Hope He Brings Me With Him When He Is Done As Governor.  Get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (that you voted for).

Emphasizing the value of continuing to support high quality assessments during the statewide review, Markell referenced his support for Professional Learning Communities during which teachers meet in small groups to review student data, identify struggling students, and review which lessons are most successful. He also addressed the small, but vocal group of advocates in the state pushing to opt students out of required tests.

You want to talk about a loss of instructional time?  Teachers get no breaks anymore, even though they need it and it is required by state law.  How can they review which lessons are the most successful when they have to adhere to the state standards?  You can only reposition a lump of crap so many ways.  It’s still crap.  The opt out advocates are NOT a small group.  We are getting bigger by the day, and we are legion. 

“Opting out would deny our schools a full picture of their students’ progress, and those who don’t take the tests would be denied the opportunity to receive additional support.  Students will fall through the cracks and be left behind.  That’s why the teachers, principals, and administrators I speak with, along with civil rights groups in Delaware and across America, are strongly opposed to this movement, and support universal, statewide, annual testing to make sure our students are learning and getting the help they need to succeed.”

Opting out stops you and your Rodel, Longwood, and Delaware Business Roundtable buddies from using our students as guinea pigs and lumping them into groups of effectiveness instead of the individual and creative minds they are.  Aside from the teachers that are a part of the corporate education reform movement that teach in schools on a short-term basis and work for fast-track certification programs like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School, can you name these teachers?  They are all one step away from the guillotine if they speak out publicly on these matters: teachers, principals, and superintendents.  Many civil rights groups are opposed to this test Jack.  Parents are strongly opposed to you even suggesting they don’t have rights.  We are sick of the incessant testing and want a return to true education, not this corporate agenda designed to make companies tons of money.

Deborah Wilson, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, attended the announcement to deliver a message reflecting a recent statement on assessments from the National Urban League.

“The National Urban League stands behind federal requirement and use of standardized assessments because this data is essential to hold states, districts and schools accountable for student learning and to address disparities and inequities where they exist,” read the statement. “However, we also acknowledge the outsized time local and district assessments take in today’s classrooms…States and districts should utilize only the most valid and useful assessments to ensure that the maximum amount of classroom time is spent on learning and reducing the time required to take and prepare for assessments.”

In other words, we are drinking the Kool-Aid, and we love being a part of the national corporate education reform movement.  Can’t wait to see how they benefit from this!  They are using the children you are supposed to represent to further their own sick agendas.  Shame on you!

 

Community Education Building Deferred $250,000 In Rent For Academia Antonia Alonso

According to Academia Antonia Alonso’s board minutes for their December 2014 meeting, the Community Education Building sent the school a letter agreeing to defer another $50,000 in rent, bringing a total of $250,000.00 to date.  As well, it appears enrollment is down and they have applied for a major modification based on these lower numbers.  This was at an emergency board meeting on 12/26/14.  In addition, I reported in early January that Head of School Peter Barry “resigned”.  The DOE Charter School website currently shows Teresa Gerchman as the Interim Head of School, who also serves as the CMO for Early College High School at Delaware State University (at least as of their November board meeting).

I really wish my mortgage company would keep deferring my mortgage!  Hell, if they deferred a percentage of that, I’d have my house paid off!  Is it the CEB deferring the rent, or the Longwood Foundation?  Read about it below!

Longwood Foundation Giving Millions In Grants To Charters, TFA, and ISI

Last fall, I started seeing more and more comments in charter school board minutes (I know, an oxymoron in itself) about charters submitting grants to the Longwood Foundation, the charity arm of DuPont.  After seeing one charter school put in their board minutes how they received $1.4 million dollars, I thought I might want to check the Longwood Foundation out, and I found this on their website:

“The most recent opportunity to emerge is in leadership development. After grants made to Teach for America (TFA) and Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), we have discovered that Delaware has a growing annual cohort of leaders in their twenties (it will grow to be over two hundred people each year) – most of whom are here in short term programs (two years or less) and most of whom will leave us if we don’t make a concerted effort to keep them. We have partnered with the Delaware Business Roundtable, TFA, ISI, Public Allies, and others to develop an annual program called Delaware Talent Live (DTL) designed to attract, develop, and retain these great young leaders. It’s our hope that we can convince many, if not most of them, to stay in Delaware and accelerate their growth into leadership positions in the nonprofit, for profit, and government sectors.

We remain committed to improving Delaware’s educational opportunities — with emphasis on the K-12 system. Specifically, we want to see the academic achievement gap closed and all of our students learn in a system that seeks results that are excellent on an international scale. We are honored that Bank of America chose to work with us to develop the Community Education Building in Wilmington and have designed it to serve low-income Wilmington children – closing the achievement gap for them and pointing them towards international excellence. Separately, we recognize that there are just as many low-income children in Delaware’s southern two counties as there are in Wilmington and seek to support schools there that align with these same objectives.”

Does the DOE have a contract with this Intercollegiate Studies Institute? I’m sure they will soon if they don’t already! I bolded the part about them wanting to see the achievement gap closed. I would like to see that too. But the way I want it is for all this standardized testing crap to end so kids aren’t measure for their proficiency on these horrible assessments.   Close the tests, close the achievement gap!  Cause if I hear one more discriminatory person say all special needs kids can do as well as their peers, they are living in dreamland!  If I haven’t said it today, OPT OUT OF THE SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT NOW DELAWARE PARENTS!

Oh wait, which beloved Delaware charter got the cha-ching from the Longwood Foundation?  This one:

Does the DOE

Rodel and Paul Herdman’s Vision For The Future

 

After reviewing my FOIA request to Governor Jack Markell, I started to wonder why I have more questions than answers.  Why was there such a disconnect between the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and the Vision Network in recent years?  It’s obvious Herdman runs the show for Rodel and Vision.  I began to question what the Vision Network has been up to. So I looked at the Vision Network website.  Take a good look at the Vision Leadership and Steering Committees.  Take a good long look at the names on here.

The Vision Coalition Leadership Team include members from a broad range of public, private, and civic groups. The members meet regularly to align efforts, evaluate progress, and sustain momentum. Membership on the Coalition’s Leadership Team has evolved over the past nearly ten years since its establishment, with all major stakeholder Delaware education organizations remaining committed to the plan and Coalition, and have sustained representation on its leadership group. Continue reading