Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…

Markell’s Office Plays Spin City On Housing Discounts For Charter Teachers While Other Teachers Fume

On Sunday, I wrote about how Governor Markell’s Downtown Development District is offering “below market value” discounts to charter school teachers at Market Street Village.  This was verified by both the Delaware News Journal and The New York Times in articles about this revitalization of Wilmington’s downtown housing district.  Meanwhile, Governor Markell’s office puts their spin on the story.

Delaware State Senator Bryan Townsend, upon hearing the news, reached out to Governor Markell’s office.  They responded this was miscommunication on the reporter’s part.  They didn’t specify if this was the NY Times or The News Journal reporter or both.  They said the discounts for charter school teachers are just an “example” of the types of discounts offered.  Apparently this is offered through the Delaware Talent Cooperative.  This program allows for teachers to transfer to inner-city high needs schools and are given incentives to do so.  The only problem with this is that this program is not offered to public school district teachers in Newcastle County.

The Governor’s staff has confirmed with the developer, and updated me, that many other groups are eligible for the discounts. It seems someone (the reporter, or whoever provided the info) should have listed “charter teachers” as an example of who is eligible for the discount, not that they’re the sole group eligible.

When asked if this program includes other teachers out there, Townsend responded with this:

As I understand it, to be eligible one has to be employed and meet certain federal reqs. I do not have more details than that right now, but I’ve been told that the “charter teacher” reference was only meant to be an example of someone who would qualify (and perhaps be interested, with a short walk from home to work). I don’t think “charter school teachers” is any kind of defined group for eligibility purposes.

As for Governor Markell, it would be very hard to think he did not read the article in the New York Times.  After all, he linked to it on his Twitter and Facebook Accounts:

In case you missed it: The New York Times profiled some of the exciting developments happening in Wilmington to attract “a new generation of young professionals who want to live and play in the communities where they work.” Wilmington has its challenges, but also growing employers, new housing investments, and great cultural assets on which we can build.

As well, both newspaper articles mentioned one specific building where charter school teachers would receive this discount, where 77 units are being offered, at Market Street Village.  There might be other discounts at other buildings, but this particular building was named.

Reaction from public school district teachers and other members of the community are unified in disgust:

I was hoping for good things from Gov. Jack Markell’s Downtown Development District. Now to read that his plan will offer discounted mortgages to ONLY charter school teachers? Wow. Wow. Wow. I really don’t know what to say.

 I read about discounted apt. rentals downtown for Charter teachers. I had the same reaction — why not ALL teachers? Or Firefighters, OR Police officers. Very odd!

Not surprised! It’s all part of his master plan….destroy public education/educators. Sad state of affairs!

I’m going to apply at Wilmington Charter since it’s like that 🙈🙉🙊😎

It’s time to have a sit down with all of the candidates for Governor is 2016. We endorsed Markell twice, did we not? Why are we endorsing, and advising our members to vote for these clowns?

This is disgusting. I have no words!

It really is disgusting at this point.

I am wondering why Markell thinks this is okay?

FUBAR beyond belief

Seriously, how is anyone here surprised, or shocked, or outraged? This is what happens when people go along to get along with policymakers who are controlled rigidly by ideology. They do not listen to us, and do only what they want to do. Until we stop giving them our time, our data, and our inability to mobilize and depose them, they will not stop.

I thought it was going to be geared to AmeriCorps people…so Vistas, Public Allies, as well as TFAers. That would’ve been somewhat fine with me – most of those folks make peanuts…to make it charter only is an extremely awkward, unfortunate choice.

Jack the Jerk

sadly, you guys bought the charlatan’s wares

This is shocking. Please remember these subsidies when anyone argues that charter schools operate less expensively than district schools. Teacher housing subsidies are part of their cost, it seems.

It’s another slap in the face to public school teachers.

What a tool…..

This is DoE Gone Wild, plain and simple. LEAs said three years ago that the Delaware Talent Cooperative was a sham program not steeped in research and that it could have a divisive effect in our schools. RCEA soundly rejected DoE’s Talent Coop and our District and Board respected our wishes to stay out of this toxic incentive program.  So this is DoE’s roundabout way of keeping this DOA program chugging along.  They are truly pathetic.

Mr. Markell suffers from Union animus plain and simple

Glad I didn’t help put him in office!

These types of housing programs for teachers are usually in areas where even a modest rental can’t be obtained by them. Is this the case in Wilmington? I seriously doubt it unless Wilmington is the new Boston or Princeton and I’m just clueless!

amazing. i worked incredibly hard as a public school teacher for over 20 years. I stuck it out even though it was not easy. Incredibly rewarding though. This is a shocking move by Markell.

 

Charter School Teachers Getting Preferential Treatment at Market Street Village, Discrimination Against Public School Teachers

In the Delaware News Journal today one of the articles was about luxury apartments in development for the new “millennials” to spice up the downtown district in Wilmington.  The article announced the 77 unit Market Street Village will give “below-market rates” to charter school teachers.  Jeff Mordock with the News Journal wrote:

“One of the projects, Market Street Village, will include 77 residential units that will be offered to charter school teachers at below-market rates.  Hare said tax credits and funding from the state’s Downtown Development District programs will help the units be priced at a discount.”

This was Governor Markell’s big announcement right before his State of the State address a couple weeks ago.  Locations were chosen in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford.  Markell, why don’t you just come out with a press release that says “I hate public school district teachers, and I will not rest until they are wiped off the map in Delaware.”  This is discrimination, pure and simple.  I suppose there aren’t any Millennials among the very large teacher pool in the local public school districts?  Or is this indicative of something bigger?  Because the New York Times also had an article about this on February 5th, but they said something a little bit different.  NY Times reporter Mark Makela wrote:

“The former bank building is part of the Market Street Village development that will create 77 residential units at three locations for the city’s growing number of charter school teachers, who will be offered the apartments at below-market rates.”

In the 2015-2016 school year there will be a total of six new charter schools in Delaware, five of which will be in New Castle County.  Two are already scheduled to open within Wilmington.  But on the other hand, two established charter schools will close, Reach Academy for Girls and Moyer.  So that’s 1,290 approved seats for the five new charter schools, and based on the DOE school profiles website, 573 students currently enrolled this year (I didn’t count the 12 seniors at Moyer) will be forced to find a new school next year.  So this will create a huge amount of available teachers.  What it won’t do is put the local school districts in a good position.  Already under the knife’s edge with the priority schools, more local funding will be taken out of these school districts.  This is assuming all these new charters fill all their seats.

While the fate of the priority schools is in your hands with Christina School District, or your lapdog Murphy, we all know most of these teachers will be forced to reapply for their jobs.  Do you honestly think they would accept being terminated and then taking a job at a charter school?  So where will all these new teachers come from?  Perhaps Teach For America or Relay Graduate School?  Younger people, perfect for your little downtown agenda.

It’s bad enough with all the Common Core, standardized testing and teacher evaluations, but now Markell has to push the knife in the back even deeper by allowing this 21st century discrimination by excluding public school district teachers out of a major state “revitalization” project.  He isn’t even trying to hide it anymore..  I’m sure you figure “I’ve got two years left, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please.”  Why anyone in this state would think Markell is an honorable man is beyond me.  His obsession with Rodel and all the little side deals he made has turned Delaware education into a disgrace.  It was one thing when he kept his obvious disdain of public school district education in the schools and the education landscape.  Now he has crossed a very big line into actual incentives for some he feels are “worthy” and nothing for those that are not.  I thought a Governor was supposed to be a voice for all people Governor Markell, but it’s obvious you are only there for some.

Now I understand why you have not said one word about the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  You would be a hypocrite.  Equity for all aren’t even words in your vocabulary.