Did Prestige Academy Lie In Their Major Modification Request?

It is modification mania at the Delaware DOE this month!  Prestige Academy submitted a major modification request to reduce their enrollment to 240 students, and two minor modification requests: one to drop 5th grade and the other to decrease their instructional days from 194 to 184.  In the Charter School Accountability Committee initial report, the DOE flat-out says information they provided in their major modification request is not true.  Also included are parent complaints.  There aren’t as many as Delaware Met 2.0 Delaware Design-Lab High School, but the main one troubles me quite a bit.  Where is the due process for suspended students at Delaware charter schools?  Does it even exist?  Students should not have to face over a month of suspension.  That is ridiculous!

 

Can Charlie Copeland’s First Responder School Knock My Socks Off?

I have never heard of a charter school basing their model solely on first responders.  I’ll just get that out in the open.  It is a rather unique model, but for a secondary school model?  I don’t know if I would choose to send my child there, even if he wanted to be a first responder.  Apparently, many parents agree as the school’s enrollment is precariously low.  Even though the Charter School Accountability Committee thinks things are on the upswing, it is based on estimates.  If their current trends continue, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will be on life support very soon.  The DOE will be on them, STAT! (Sorry, had to do it!)

The Delaware GOP Chairman, Charlie Copeland, is also the President of DAPSS Board of Directors.  When I posted an article about the school’s low numbers the other day, Mike Matthews shared the article on Facebook which drew Copeland to the school’s defense.  He responded to my many questions about their enrollment issues and the timing of their modification request with the following:

Just simply call the school and take a tour. You can get answers to all your questions. Be prepared to have your socks knocked off. Life is so much simpler if you just do the right thing rather than join the wackos who make up conspiracies.

I may just take him up on it!  I’ve never had my socks knocked off!  In the meantime, take a look at the Charter School Accountability Committee’s initial report on their major modification request to officially lower their already low enrollment.

Del. Academy of Public Safety & Security Modification Shows An Out Of Control Delaware DOE

DAPSSEnrollmentFigures

The Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security submitted a major modification request to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office on December 10th.  They want to decrease their enrollment from their charter approved 480 students to 375 students, a reduction of 22%.  What makes this very interesting is the fact other charter schools in Delaware have been placed on formal review for not having 80% of their approved enrollment in their charter. DAPSS has not met their approved enrollment figures for the past two years.  The DOE looks at formal review status for charters if they fall below 80% of their approved enrollment based on the financial viability of the school.

According to the information submitted by DAPSS to the Charter School Office, their enrollment last year was 363, which put them at 76% of their approved enrollment.  This year, the school lost 60 students and currently stand at 303 students.  This is less than 64% of their approved enrollment.  My biggest question would be why they were not put on formal review last year or this year based on this information.  What is the point of having a state law if the Department of Education doesn’t feel like following it?  Are we at the point where the Delaware DOE is an independent entity, absolved of any accountability or self-regulation?

For their performance framework, the school was labeled as “Does Not Meet Standard” for their organizational framework three out of the last four academic years, in 11-12, 12-13, and 14-15.  For their financial framework, they were labeled as “Falls Far Below Standard” in 11-12, 13-14, and 14-15 and “Does Not Meet Standard” in 12-13.  Once again, they have not been placed on formal review for their very negative ratings on the State Board of Education approved Charter School Performance Framework.  Are charter schools exempt from accountability based on who runs the show at each charter?  I don’t think having charter schools submitting modification requests to make them compliant with the law is the way a Department should run things, in my opinion.

Based on the timeline, the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings start today leading to a State Board of Education decision at their March 17th meeting.  The meetings yesterday were canceled due to the inclement weather.

DAPSSModTimeline

Below is the official major modification application submitted by Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security as well as their projected budget based on an 80% enrollment.

State Board Of Education Preview: WEIC, Assessments, Teacher Evaluations, Charter Modifications, And Maybe One Illegal Request

strategic%20plan%20graphic2014

At 9am this morning, the Delaware State Board of Education will have their first meeting of 2016.  Normally these meetings are at 1pm, but since Governor Markell has to give his big speech across the street at 2pm, they are having it earlier.  I thought they would make it a light schedule for this meeting because of the time change and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vote, but I was very wrong.  There is a lot going on at this meeting.  So being the good little blogger I am, I thought I would just go ahead and put up everything going on!  To get to the potentially illegal thing, you have to go all the way to the bottom… Continue reading

Mapleton Charter Submits Major Modification To Move To Kent County, Lower Enrollment & Change Name

At yesterday’s Delaware State Board of Education meeting, it was announced the Mapleton Charter School of Whitehall submitted a major modification request on 9/16.  Mapleton is looking to move to Kent County, lower it’s enrollment and change it’s name.  While the last is not part of a major modification, the Charter School Office at the DOE is rolling it all into one big request.  The school is scheduled to open in the 2016-2017 academic year.

From my recollection, this would be the first time a charter has switched locations to a different county in Delaware.  Kent County currently has six charter schools: Campus Community, Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Positive Outcomes, First State Military Academy and Early College High School.  Three of them are in Dover, two in Smyrna, and one in Camden-Wyoming.  The only other charter school south of the Caesar Rodney School District is Sussex Academy, in the heart of Indian River School District.

Jennifer Nagourney, the Director of the Charter School Office, said it would be up on the Charter School website, but she also emphasized this is a very large application to which State Board member Pat Heffernan advised Nagourney to “get her reading glasses.”  I can’t wait to see it though.  I would love to know where they are planning to locate in Kent County.  I know Kendall Massett published an editorial on Town Square Delaware over a year ago about needing more charters in Kent and Sussex County.  While the bulk of Delaware’s charters are in New Castle County, and more specifically, Wilmington, two of the new charters that opened this year went on formal review due to low enrollment.  They made it out of that status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mapleton saw this happening and started making new plans.

I’m sure we will have more answers next week.  If I were a betting man, I would guess we could say them looking to move to southern Kent County.  But this is all guesswork on my end.  If this were the case, and I’m not saying it is, this could affect enrollment in Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest and Milford school districts the most.  And any location would of course be based on approval by the State Board of Education.  The State Board previously approved their application to begin as a K-2 school, with an enrollment of 100 in each grade.  Each successive year, the school will add the next grade going up to 5th grade in four years for a total of 600 students by 2020.  But of course, if the major modification is approved, their enrollment will be less. And obviously, their Middletown area location would be different.  And they probably don’t want to call it Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall if they aren’t in Whitehall.

Ironically enough, Mapleton’s Chair of their Board of Directors is Dr. Michael Stetter.  Stetter used to work at the Delaware DOE as their Director of Accountability Resources and

Family Foundations Major Modification To Move Buildings To Reach Academy, Plans To Increase Enrollment

On June 29th, Family Foundations Academy, a Delaware charter school in New Castle, DE submitted a major modification request to move their elementary school this summer to one of the two buildings formerly occupied by Reach Academy for Girls and wants to move their middle school to the other building at Reach the following year.  They also plan to increase enrollment from 810 to 1100 in a potential modification request to be submitted in the fall.

I check the DOE website on a daily basis, especially the charter school section, and I must have missed this one.  Probably because it was listed under 2014-2015.  As well, I do check their calendar for meetings.  The Charter School Accountability Committee is required to give public notice for any of their meetings.  They held a meeting on Monday, July 13th, and while the information was on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar, my first place to look is the actual calendars on the DOE website, but as I originally wrote in this article there is not a case of non-transparency, just a blogger not looking in all the right places, so my apologies to the CSAC on this one!  My only beef with this is if the decision was going to be made in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, why would they put it under 2014-2015?  I’m sure the answer would be because it was submitted on June 29th, the second to last day of the fiscal year.  No big deal on that.

Below are the application and Charter School Accountability Committee initial meeting report.  Of note, former CSAC member Chuck Taylor is not listed, but  Deborah Wilson with the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League is.  Jennifer Nagourney, Executive Director of the Charter School Office, did inform me Wilson has been a member of the committee for the past few months, and I do see her on some activity from February.  If that name sounds familiar, she was one of the chief civil rights group voices against the opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  I did make a request to Nagourney that the members of the Charter School Accountability Committee be listed on the DOE website with their dates of service.

Looks like there will be two new empty buildings for future charters in the upcoming year…

Delaware Design-Lab High School Moving Out of Wilmington. Will They Make Their 80% Enrollment?

Another Delaware charter school scheduled to open in August 2015 could be in danger before they even open.  Delaware Design-Lab High School applied for a major modification request to change it’s location from the City of Wilmington to Newark, DE.  Housed in the same area as Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, the charter school is struggling to reach it’s enrollment requirement.

As of April 2nd, the school has 119 students enrolled.  It’s charter requires 240 students, and the school had to meet that figure by April 1st.  Based on the above figures, the school is short 73 students.

Apparently, many of the prospective students come from the Bear-Newark area and parents were concerned about a city location.  From the major modification request submitted to the Delaware DOE Charter School Office:

Now since the request was only for a change in location, the request was approved by the Charter School Accountability Committee, as you can see here:

But the major problem appears to be the required enrollment which they did not make by April 1st.  Based on the report, it looks like the Charter School Accountability Committee was okay with the school getting a month extension until May 1st to “recruit another 75-100 students”.

At the State Board of Education meeting on April 16th, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board will reach a decision on Design-Lab High School’s major modification request.  With that being said, I would also expect them to hold the school accountable for its enrollment as of that date.

I did have the pleasure of meeting the Chief Executive Officer of the school, Cristina Alvarez, at the Imagine Delaware forum at the beginning of last month, and I think this school has some great concepts, but I worry about the academic challenges and potential specific interest conflicts.