Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm. To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm. I signed up on Tuesday. I will be reporting live from the Town Hall. What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying. It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading “Carney & Bunting Tackle Education Funding But The Red Herring Fooling Everyone Lurks Around The Corner”
As the News Journal reported today, Howard High School experienced more than double the amount of fights between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
During cross-examination of Ursula McCoy, an 8-year faculty veteran at Howard who had worked in the discipline office, Deckers established that violent incidents more than doubled at Howard between the 2014-2015 school year and the 2015-2016 year. There were 46 reports of violence last year, compared with 20 the year before.
Upon questioning from Deckers, McCoy said “there may be times when (fights) are not reported.”
Sorry Ms. McCoy, when it comes to fighting, all of them should be reported. It is the law. It is NOT let’s cherry-pick what is and isn’t a fight. If the school determines it is a fight, it is a fight. By failing to report that information to the state, YOU are breaking the law. Notice the article said she “had worked in the discipline office”. Why doesn’t she anymore?
I still don’t buy Trinity Carr’s excuse that she couldn’t have known the fight could lead to Amy Joyner-Francis’ death. She and her friends beat her senseless. At the very least, they should have known it would cause some type of trauma to her. But no, we get her attorney defending someone who killed a girl. I know, it is his job to defend her, but come on! This was a planned fight. Kids and teenagers say dumb things, no doubt about it. I don’t know if that was the case with all this and it really doesn’t matter. You don’t beat someone until they die because of it.
As for the school not reporting all their fights, I really hope they have learned their lesson and the state makes sure they did. There is no reason not to report fighting no matter what the reasoning might be. Some folks say get rid of the Delaware Department of Education, but I believe they are a necessary entity to make sure things like this are reported. As well with special education issues and things of that sort. There needs to be ramifications when a school admits in a major trial they didn’t report incidents of violence. That will bring little solace to the family of Amy Joyner-Francis, but it should be a wake-up call to every single school in this state. Perhaps if all the fighting were reported it would bring more interventions into a school if the reporting is done with fidelity.
The Christina School District Board of Education had a big night last night! They approved new Superintendent Richard Gregg’s contract which means he will begin his leadership of the district beginning April 18th. Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved the first read of their safety zone policy which failed to get enough votes last month as a resolution.
The district put out a press release today with more information about Gregg:
The Christina School District Board of Education voted to approve the superintendent contract for Richard L. Gregg during its regular March Board meeting. Gregg’s effective start date will be April 18, 2017.
Richard L. Gregg most recently served as Assistant Superintendent for the Penn-Delco School District in Aston, Pennsylvania, a position he has held since 2015. In that position, he was responsible for district-wide curriculum and instruction, assessment, special education, professional development, and technology integration. He also oversaw the district budget and supervised administrative staff. His experience also includes serving as principal of Penncrest High School in Media, Pennsylvania, and as Director of Instruction for New Castle County Vocational Technical School District in Delaware. He has served as principal of Brandywine High School, and principal and assistant principal of Concord High School in the Brandywine School District. In the Christina School District, he served as assistant principal at Christiana High School.
His teaching experience includes a total of nine years’ experience as a high school social studies teacher. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Delaware, and a master’s degree in school leadership and instruction from Wilmington University. He is a graduate of Glasgow High School.
Gregg received the Pennsylvania School Principal of the Year Award in 2010, and was named Delaware Secondary Principal of the Year in 2000. He has held leadership roles with the Delaware Principals Academy, the Delaware Academy for School Leadership, and the Delaware Association of School Administrators. At the national level, he has served on the National Honor Society National Council, the National Association of State Student Councils and on the National Association of Secondary School Principals Leadership Award Selection Committee.
The safety zone policy drew a decent crowd, with members of the Delaware Green Party in attendance in support of board member John Young’s policy. To read the full policy as approved in a first-read status by the Board last evening, please read below. I do not view this as a “sanctuary” policy as that has an altogether different meaning than what this policy actually states. The News Journal referred to the policy as a “sanctuary policy” in their article last night. The board will vote on a 2nd read of the policy at their next meeting on April 11th, at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington.
Under this policy, the Christina School District reaffirms our commitment to a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for every student without regard to their race, religion, national origin or immigration status to provide enrolled, undocumented students their legal right to a public education.
Good old Jack Wells. Strong in the Force is that one! When State Rep. Val Longhurst released her final report on the SAIL Task Force, which is basically asking for more education funding for after-school programs, the News Journal took the bait. But so did Jack Wells, Delaware’s financial Yoda (especially with Red Clay funds). So much so he wrote a very public letter to Rep. Longhurst.
TO: House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst;
I support your efforts for more affordable after-school programs and bring together a collection of leading after-school care providers, educators and state agencies. To be honest I believe many expenditures being charged to education revenue should be the responsibility of other state agencies.
In fiscal year 2016, DID our districts and charter schools expend more per student on EPER athletics, EPER extra curricular activities, and EPER miscellaneous, than on providing additional help to our children to improve their achievement in reading, math and other critical subjects. I have no doubt very little of the $35 million expended for EPER was expended to provide additional assistance to improve the achievement of our children in reading, math, and other critical subjects.
After reading the recommendations regarding the lack of after school programs being provided to our children, I cannot help but wonder why no comments where made on the after school programs currently being provided to our children by our districts and charter schools, programs that are funded from local school taxes, I would estimate at a cost of $35 million dollars.
Last year our districts and charter schools expended $19,043,456 to cover the salary cost for Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities, EPER, when you include pension cost, 22.28% and other employment cost, 18.83% the cost for EPER compensation was $26,872,126.
In addition $2,335,617 was expended for Athletic Equipment and Supplies and $2,510,162 for Student Body Activities, added to these cost, must be custodian overtime, transportation, maintaining facilities, game officials, security, energy, association dues, conference fees, uniforms, etc..
The question which must be answered is, How and where was this $35 million dollars used. What I do know is that EPER has 3 categories, Athletics, Extra Curricular Activities and Miscellaneous, shown below are compensation cost for each category. I believe it’s reasonable to believe that almost all of the compensation cost for EPER Athletics, $9,559,540 was used in our 9-12 grade schools, as was the cost of game officials, conference fees, supplies and equipment, maintaining facilities, etc..
I also know that last year the principals in Red Clay 9-12 grade schools expended $439.53 per student, while the principals in K-5 expended $173.85 and middle school principals $198.97. Why the difference? Was it EPER?
Shown below are the salary, pension and Other Employment cost for each category of EPER.
Salary Pension OEC Total
$6,774,596 $1,509,379 $1,275,565 $9,559,540 Athletics
$5,750,613 $1,281,236 $1,082,840 $8,114,689 Extra Curricular Activities
$6,518,247 $1,452,265 $1,227,385 $9,197,897 Miscellaneous.
Finally I would like to point out that the local salary cost for EPER of $19,043,456 is only exceeded by the local salary cost of our teachers, principals, assistant principals, custodians and salaries general, clearly this is a major local expense that only a very few have any idea of how and where it is being used and how it benefits our children.
Are our K-5 and 6-8 grade students being provided the same amount of local revenue for additional programs as our high schools? Does the funding of athletics have a higher priority than funding additional help to our children who need help in reading, math, etc.?
I ask that you Statewide Afterschool Initiative Learning Task Force review how and where EPER expenditures are used and report your findings to the residents when requesting additional revenue.
The Indian River School District passed their referendum today. According to The News Journal, voters passed the expense measure with 7,095 yes votes. 5,394 voted no.
The vote comes exactly 100 days after the district’s first attempt to pass a current expense referendum failed by a mere 30 votes back on Nov. 22, 2016.
The referendum came as a result of unprecedented growth within the district, interim superintendent Mark Steele said.
Earlier this week, voters in the Colonial School District did not pass their referendum measures. Like Christina, Brandywine, and Indian River in the past couple of years, Colonial will assuredly take another stab at it. For the Indian River, the district is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief after a contentious year which saw their Chief Financial Officer resign in controversy and a painful audit investigation which showed a great deal of financial issues in the district.
Racism in Delaware is very real. We saw it clearly with the situation at a Delaware Military Academy basketball game. Alleged racial slurs were yelled out by DMA students. When the A.I. Dupont High School basketball team was told to stay in their chairs after the game, members went to go towards the seats where they heard the horrible words. No adult will come forward about this and use honor instead of protecting their charter school. Why?
Racism is rampant in Delaware. Our media, especially The News Journal, does not do enough to curb this. Every time they post any article about issues that could possibly involve race, the hatred pours out in their comments. Perhaps they remove these but they have no filters whatsoever to prevent words like nigger being thrown out there. Don’t believe me? Check out this comment from their poll last night about the DMA/AI incident:
I don’t condone the use of that word by anyone, whether they are black or white. It is a word from history that signifies a time when black people were owned by white people. I don’t believe any race or culture should own the word. It is ugly and full of hatred. We all bleed the same blood. We all smile the same smile and we all shed the same tears. Maybe because I was raised in a home where the value of respecting others was instilled in me at a very early age is the reason I can’t even fathom this kind of hatred.
President Trump, for all his faults, does not bring out this kind of hatred in people. It is there and always has been. There are those who may not like the words but fail to do anything about as evidenced by this comment from a DMA parent:
Fear of retaliation. I’ve heard those words so many times to justify bad decisions in others. If you find those words unacceptable then do the right thing and speak up. What kind of message are you sending your child? That it is okay for others to say things that are unacceptable in today’s society? That adults can act just as bad as kids which further perpetuates racism? Speak up parent! By hiding things and covering them up, you are teaching your own child that it is okay for these things to happen. It is not okay. It is not right. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child for adulthood and instill in them a sense of right and wrong. We all want to protect our children, I get that. But if doing it has a cost that could make anyone think certain things are okay are you really doing your job as a parent? If administrators allow this to continue, what does that say about the school you chose to send your child to? Taking away a senior night, which is the first I’ve heard of any punishment for DMA students, is not enough. If this indeed happened, that would indicate wrong-doing on the DMA team and cheerleaders. If no racial slurs were thrown out, why a punishment at all?
Schools like Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, and Newark Charter School all have very low African-American populations compared to the schools around them. Some have even suggested they allow this culture of racism to continue so they get more white students. This furthers segregation in Delaware, especially around Wilmington. If these charters truly cared about diversity, they would do something about it. Instead, we get long drawn-out essays, significant expenses surrounding school uniforms and sports, and specific interests that dissuade low-income families and minorities from even applying. Despite the many who have called them out on this, our General Assembly turns a blind eye to this and allows this to continue. Despite federal guidance suggesting any specific enrollment should be designed to let students with the highest needs in.
Did the A.I. DuPont H.S. coach do the right thing? Many have suggested he did. By suspending the team for the rest of the season he sent a message that despite what others say reacting to it can only make the situation worse. But what about those players who are being called one of the most vile words in existence? The News Journal wrote an editorial and said the coach made the right decision. However, they did not mention one word about the alleged racial slurs. To me, that word is meant to strip away the humanity from a person and make them feel like less then a human being. Even though the above comment no longer appears in the comments of a poll they put up last night they allowed it to go up. Even by putting a poll up to see if the coach did the right thing without all the information conveyed to those answering the poll, they are slanting the issue.
Delaware is an odd state. We are a state between the south and the north. One only needs to look at the riots in Wilmington in the 1960s to see Delaware’s history with race issues. We still struggle with this in the present. Generations of hatred against black people still exist to this very day. But no one wants to really bring it out in the open. Those of us who try are chastised and told to shut up. That we have no idea what we are talking about. But it continues, every day. Every time we allow any institution to further issues of race, we are allowing the problem to continue. Any time we allow a school, a building of education, to not have student populations that match the local area, we are letting it happen.
The charter schools I mentioned were a cure for not-so-wealthy parents of white students who couldn’t afford to send their kids to private schools. They didn’t want their kids in “those” schools so some of our legislators created the perfect situation: schools with predominant white populations and barriers that effectively prevented “those” kids from even getting into that system. And many parents rushed towards the opportunity. Attack one of those charters and the parents will come out in full force to defend the school with a “How dare you” attitude. They will defend these institutions that further discrimination at the cost of their own souls. They don’t even see they are doing it.
Any person who makes themselves better than another with words designed to hurt someone based on race, gender, disability, age, or social status is discriminatory. They are racist. They are advancing their old-world vision on present-day society. Anyone who fails to speak out about these things happening is living in a fear basket cuddled up in a blanket called enablement. You are allowing this to continue. You are just as bad. If your child was given a hard time at school would you not speak up for them? Most of us would. We wouldn’t worry about fear of retaliation because it is the right thing to speak up for your child and advocate for them when they are unable to. So why would you not speak up when you see your child’s environment is hostile and ugly? That can be just as damaging as any situation where someone comes after your child. You are failing as a parent when you don’t speak up about injustice. If we all did that when we should, there wouldn’t be so much injustice. It would send a clear message that this will not be tolerated. It is unacceptable. We will not be a victim to your cruel words and hatred.
Children are the most susceptible and vulnerable population in this country. They absorb what is around them. If parents show racism as issues at the dinner table or use words to describe people that are not good, kids pick up on it and at a very early age. It becomes part of their personality. It goes both ways with race. Putting down the white man in front of your kids can elicit the same behaviors in kids. I go back to “Remember The Titans”. If it really went down that way, I don’t know. It had to have been “Disneyfied” to some degree. But the message is clear: when we band together we are all one.
I am not afraid to speak out. I will not stop defending the rights of any human being on this planet. And you can throw all the stones in the world at me but I will not let your cowardice stop me. This is why I loathe the use of high-stakes standardized testing in schools. It is just another system that puts up divides instead of unity. Far too many parents say “I don’t want my kid going to that school. Look at their test scores”. And they cycle continues. For the Delaware racists, you know who you are. You know what you harbor in your innermost thoughts. You may think you are right. You may go to church on Sundays and count your blessings. You may believe you have the might of angels behind your beliefs. But what you lack in humility and grace takes all of that away. As for media like The News Journal, telling half a story isn’t addressing any issue. Covering up things that went down and hiding behind “accounts on social media” as if that whitewashes what really went down is not journalism. It is cowardice.
Almost a day since I broke this story, DMA Commandant Anthony Pullella has not responded to my request for information about this incident. I can’t say I’m surprised. Many charter schools like to live in their own bubble and want to ignore the outside world. As if they are the beacon of society and can do no wrong. Why shouldn’t they think that? Our own state government has allowed them to thrive in that belief. Our legislators can sit in their legislative chambers and condemn actions that took place 150 years ago but when the time comes for them to address the true issues that are perpetuating racism, discrimination, and segregation in our state, far too many of them do nothing. Especially when it comes to education. There are those who will fight on these issues, reps like Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others. But they do not hold the majority. All too often, bills are saturated with words that eventually continue Delaware’s backwards slide into racism. Some don’t even realize this at the time. Critics of issues involving racism and discrimination are all too often marginalized in this state. Our issues become back burner because money and power have the influence in Dover, not what is right. It becomes politics, not morality and doing what is right.
Unless you have been spoken down to like you are less than you are as much as African-Americans have in our very racist state, how can you effectively say you are right? Have you ever walked in the shoes of someone who has been demeaned and humiliated? If the answer is no, then kindly shut up. We don’t want your hatred spewing out of your mouth. I will never condone violence as a response to hatred. It does nothing except make the situation worse. But to point out the potential of violence without addressing why it got to that point is highly irresponsible.
Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, will soon be standing at a crossroads. As someone who preaches district and charter collaboration on one hand, the other hand is busy trying to find ways to get more district money to follow students at Delaware charters. This dichotomy is going to define the future of charter schools in Delaware.
As anyone breathing in Delaware is well aware, fifteen charter schools sued the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Christina School District over funds they felt should have been going to charter schools. The defining moment in the lawsuit: when Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky reversed changes to the local funding formula for school choice payments after September 1st. They could have been patient and allowed Godowsky or the next Delaware Secretary of Education and the General Assembly the opportunity to figure it out. But instead, they took the legal route which was championed by Kendall Massett. As a result, the law firm of Saul Ewing will get $300,000. How many teachers could be hired with that kind of money? How many students could have received a paraprofessional in a school room bursting with over 25 kids?
If the collaboration Massett truly desires took place, this lawsuit wouldn’t have happened in the first place. If there is blame to be thrown around regarding who was at fault with the local funding formula, that blame lands solely at the feet of the Delaware Dept. of Education. They should have been the ones answering the questions for the charters. Christina performed their due diligence and submitted their exclusions to the Delaware DOE. This originated last Winter, with Newark Charter School calling in the DOE who apparently “confessed” to the powers that be about the exclusions submitted by Christina. The DOE had an opportunity right then and there to make good on this. The charter schools could have gone public with this information and forced the DOE to do something about it. And if that didn’t work, they could have brought in the General Assembly. But instead, they kept this a secret for many months. They had to know when the public found out about this they would be understandably upset. These were huge funding changes with charter payments. This was not a wise move for the charters involved. By alleging that Christina was purposely withholding funds from these charters when the district did the same thing they had been doing for 12-13 years, which I might add was completely legal since the DOE approved them, the charters started a war. It is not that difficult to see this was the original intent. It boils down to Greg Meece having a hissy fit because his school wanted more money and if Christina wouldn’t willfully give it up, he was going to punish them and cast blame.
In an article on Delaware First Media, written by Meg Pauly on December 1st, Massett weighed in on the Christina Board of Education signing the settlement with the fifteen charters. Massett, as the go-to spokeswoman for Delaware charter schools, seemed to have some very big misunderstandings about what this settlement really is.
She said the decision most likely won’t require a vote from each schools’ entire board of directors, which could make it easier to approve.
“Because there would not be any money going out – they’re not paying out a settlement, it would be money coming in – there’s not really a fiduciary responsibility that the board would have to approve,” Massett said.
There is certainly a fiduciary responsibility stemming from this settlement. The charters, according to the settlement, would have to make sure the funds were allocated to certain functions similar to what those funds were used for in the Christina School District. As well, the Pandora’s box called tuition tax funds were brought up in the settlement. It states:
In the CSD settlement agreement, CSD has agreed to catalogue and describe, for DOE and CSD Charter Schools, those services provided by CSD to children with special needs (“Special Needs Services”) that are funded in whole, in whole or in part, with revenues generated by the levy of the so-called Tuition Tax by CSD. The objective of this undertaking is to determine whether CSD shall be financially responsible under Section 509(f) for funding the same or similar Special Needs Services provided by CSD Charter Schools to their CSD resident students. If requested, DOE will participate in the discussions and inquiry described in this subsection, and, where necessary, shall enforce this provision.
So what does Section 509(f) of Delaware State Code say?
For any student, who because of educational need requires services that are appropriately financed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title, either at the outset or subsequent to a decision to enroll in a charter school, the student’s district of residence shall remain financially responsible for such student and the charter school shall receive from such district a payment determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title.
Which brings us back to Chapter 6 of Title 14:
§ 604 Special programs.
(a) If any pupil is counted in the preschool, intensive or complex unit and attends school in a program operated by a district other than that in which the pupil resides, by an agency of the Department of Education or is in an approved private placement pursuant to § 3124 of this title, the receiving district or the Department of Education shall collect a tuition charge for the nonresident pupil, provided approval for attendance has been granted by the sending district. Such tuition charge shall be paid by the school board of the reorganized school district in which the pupil is a resident from the proceeds of a local tax levied for this specific purpose, except that in the case of a district assigned by the Department with the approval of the State Board of Education to administer a school or program for children with disabilities, or special programs approved by the Department of Education for persons without disabilities such as programs for bilingual students or programs for pregnant students, the district so assigned shall be both the sending and receiving district in regard to that school or program and is authorized to collect tuition charges accordingly.
(b) In determining the tuition to be charged for a pupil counted in the preschool, intensive or complex units or for a person without disabilities attending approved special programs, such as bilingual programs or programs for pregnant students operated by a district other than that in which the student resides or by an agency of the State Department of Education, the receiving district or the State Department of Education shall compute the tuition by adding such receiving district’s share of educational related expenses as allowed by the Department of Education regulations. The sum so obtained shall be divided by the total number of pupils in the special program as of September 30 of the current school year. The resulting figure shall represent the amount of the “tuition charge” per pupil.
(c) In determining the tuition charged to the sending district in the case of private placement for children with disabilities, tuition will be defined as in § 3124 of this title and the sending district will be charged 30 percent of the total tuition cost. The remaining 70 percent will be covered through funding provided by the State Department of Education from the annual appropriation for this purpose.
The charter schools get IDEA Part B funding from the federal government. They receive special education funding from the state for Basic Special Education for students in pre-school (if they have those programs) and students in 4th-12th grade. They get intensive and complex funding for students in all grades. Where the tuition tax gets very complex is how it is determined. The local school board votes to set the current year’s tuition tax rate for taxpayers. It is not something the district can change on a whim. And state code is very specific about what those funds can be used for. What makes Christina very unique is that they are the management district for several special needs programs. Those are not funds the charter schools could touch based on this settlement unless they are providing comparable services. Then we get into the definition of a comparable service. Would Gateway Lab School be considered the same school as the special schools within Christina?
Where Kendall, as well as the entire settlement, performs a massive overreach is in this particular section. It is tampering with state code in unbelievable ways. State code does not legally have to honor a settlement stemming from a lawsuit between a school district and a group of charters. As well, it can not, and should not, dictate what a state agency has to do. That is what we have our General Assembly for, to create and amend laws. We can certainly discuss the merit of some of those laws, but that is the very essence of the Constitution of Delaware. A settlement should not create new contradictions that try to negate existing law. Which is why Secretary Godowsky wanted the General Assembly to intervene in this entire funding process. I am assuming the Delaware DOE signed their settlement agreement with the fifteen charters. Which is even more concerning in my eyes. The fact they would allow changes in Delaware law without approval of the legislative body charged with performing that task. A settlement cannot create laws or regulations.
What this section does is change the duty of charter schools in regards to their adherence of special education law which they should already be doing to the best of their ability. This settlement is much more than a “fiduciary responsibility” in nature, as Massett put it. Something that magnanimous in scope should be approved by a charter school board, not a Head of School or even an interim principal in one case. It is fiduciary in a sense that the charters would receive more money from a tuition tax, but it would require an oversight of the special education services within each of those charter schools to make sure they are performing at a comparable level to Christina. That could involve extra resources and staff those charters may not have. Could a charter hire that staff and pay for those resources and then submit for those tuition tax funds? Or would those services and staff have to already be in place to be eligible for those funds? The settlement does not define that.
If, for some odd reason, legislation is created out of this part of the settlement, it would require districts to collect even more tuition tax from taxpaying citizens within their district. They would have to because more would be required to go out to charter schools for those students. They should not be tasked with divvying up the existing tuition tax they receive for the students within their own district with those needs or funds they are already sending to special education schools outside of their district. That would take away from those students. But here is the major problem with this: the local boards have to determine the tuition tax rate in the summer before the school year starts. They base this on projections within their own district. How can they determine the needs of special education students who reside in their district but attend charter schools before the school year even starts? For some they can, but special education can be very fluid, evolving from year to year. It is hard enough for the districts to do this for their own students.
If Kendall Massett wants more collaboration between districts and charters going forward, she needs to stop drawing this line in the sand when it comes to money. She is going to continue to piss off the districts and they will not want to collaborate with the charters who keep demanding more and more from them. Districts can’t always get performance funds or donations from foundations. They can’t always have silent auctions like many charter schools do. All Delaware public schools have the capability of applying for grants from the state or the federal government, including charters. Districts don’t get to keep their excess transportation spending if they set their budget higher than what they actually spend. And charters are free to use this money as they please. So please, tell me Kendall, if the charters are getting what you view as their “fair share“, will you promote removing those extra perks for the charters that districts don’t get? When it comes to education funding, there is a crystal-clear difference between what a charter school needs and what an entire district needs. In some ways, it is like comparing apples to oranges. You can’t complain about charters not receiving capital funding. That was the way the law for charters was set up. It was the price of admission into Delaware public education. So by default, on paper, it would appear charters get less than districts for that very reason.
Some could argue that this latest misstep by the charters is just more of an ongoing agenda to privatize public education. Just one more chunk taken from school districts and flowing into the hands of charter schools which are actually non-profit corporations. By state law, those corporations are required to file IRS tax returns. But because of loopholes in IRS guidance, the one charter school who actually started this whole charter payment mess is the one school that does not file those tax returns. The guiding force behind the lawsuit was Greg Meece and Newark Charter School. They created the very conditions that led to the lawsuit. The settlement promises severe disruption to all Delaware schools involving special education and funding. But Newark Charter School is not transparent with their own finances the same way the rest of Delaware charters are. I have grave issues with that. And I have no doubt in my mind Kendall is aware of this.
In a News Journal article from December 5th discussing the settlement details, written by Adam Duvernay, Kendall states the following:
“I’m glad everyone will have a seat at the table, and that the process will be transparent, so we don’t find ourselves in this situation again where charter schools go for years without answers and feel like they need to resort to legal action to make their voices heard,” Massett said.
What about the questions many Delawareans have been asking the charter schools for years without any real answers? Like how certain Delaware charter schools can cherry-pick students in defiance of state and federal law? When does Newark Charter School, which created this whole mess, finally implement their plan to balance their demographics at their school? When does Newark Charter School become fully transparent with their own money the way every other Delaware charter school is required by law to do? Massett cherry-picks her statements. She wants districts to answer any questions charters have, but when those answers are needed by others, she either deflects or states it just isn’t true. And when people do take legal actions surrounding charter demographics? Like when the Office of Civil Rights asked for all charter school applications a couple of years ago going back the two years before that request? The Delaware Charter Schools Network became the organization tasked with collecting that information. And what happened? Massett informed the Office of Civil Rights the charters did not know they needed to keep that information. And then there is the matter of the now two-year-old complaint from the Delaware ACLU against the State of Delaware and Red Clay regarding practices of segregation and discrimination from some Delaware charter schools. Kendall called that “a myth.” Two years later and that complaint has gone nowhere. Forcing someone to sit at the table with a menu where there are two choices, our way or no way, is not collaboration. It is not legal action. It is manipulation that doesn’t belong in education. With education, every decision eventually affects students in a good way or a bad way. For far too long, those decisions have existed for the benefit of charter school students.
Getting real here, Kendall’s job is to promote charter schools and to serve as a buffer between them and the state in certain areas. At heart, Kendall is a lobbyist, seeking to influence the General Assembly and the Delaware DOE in ways that will benefit charter schools in the state. Charter schools pay dues to the Delaware Charter Schools Network. In a sense, they are very similar to some of the roles the Delaware State Education Association plays in education politics. But the difference is that DSEA represents the teachers in district schools. They promote or oppose legislation that will benefit the teachers within their organization. I have no doubt DSEA would love to have charter school teachers unionize. But the Delaware Charter School Network exists for a niche within public education that almost serves as a parasite on the districts they feed from. It takes from the host body and sucks the energy out of it. That is the price of school choice that Kendall cannot seem to fathom.
In 2017, education will once again be front and center in Delaware. The corporate education reform movement, led by the Rodel Foundation in Delaware, will become more pronounced with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, it almost seems like the charter movement in Delaware and those who advocate for them, seem to have become more emboldened with the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. He promised billions of dollars to charter schools. To add salt to that wound, he appointed Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. A charter school lover if there ever was one. I have no doubt charter advocates across the country are feeling almost empowered by these events. Supporters of public education are very worried about what will happen to further erode an education system that has been in place long before the very idea of a charter school was introduced.
In Delaware, Kendall Massett will continue to have great relationships with the Dept. of Education and the State Board of Education. She will exert her influence on the General Assembly. If any bill is introduced that will negatively impact charter schools, she will wield her power and influence to put a stop to it. She is backed by some very powerful forces in Delaware that will not be trifled with in any way. But none of these forces see what their choices and decisions make to education as a whole. If charters and districts were funded the same way as the vo-tech schools in Delaware, I don’t think the issues with charter schools in the state would be as big. But this parasitic relationship between districts and charters is paralyzing to education in Delaware. There are other things that perform the same damaging results, but we can control how this particular relationship evolves. Districts and charters aren’t going anywhere. If charters want to co-exist with districts and have true and meaningful collaboration, they have to stop these games. And Kendall Massett, as the spokeswoman for the charters, will have to take on a different mantra. It isn’t a question of choice at this point, it is an answer that demands immediate implementation. Fair goes both ways.
If I were Kendall Massett, I would actually recommend the Christina Board of Education rescinds their vote on the settlement. Funding is important, but shaking down a district like this which will only tick off the other districts in the state, is not something to be proud of. It is not a victory when students continue to pay the price.
The News Journal is reporting Indian River lost their referendum by a mere 30 votes, with 3,321 for and 3,351 against. It reminds me of a recent election in our country. I have no doubt the district will roll the dice with a 2nd attempt in the next couple of months. But the district has to own up to the audit investigation last week. By stating the referendum has nothing to do with that report, they are shooting themselves in the foot. I have a very hard time with Susan Bunting and her credibility at this point. If Patrick Miller, the former CFO, was controlling everything with finances in the district then she let him do that. She turned a blind eye to what was going on and that shows a clear lack of leadership. As well, the Board has the capability of determining the district’s finances.
Bunting said issues need to be addressed across the board to ensure the referendum passes if it is held again. Although an audit was released late last week detailing financial issues over the past five years, Bunting said she won’t blame the audit for the failure for the referendum to pass.
If it was one year or possibly two that Miller played with school finances, that would be one thing. But this went on a long time. Even more frightening that it took tips to the Auditor’s office to get to the bottom of it. Not only was Bunting and the Board asleep at the wheel, so was our state. What happened in Indian River should give our legislators a wake-up call as well. They should somehow get funding from somewhere and beef up the State Auditor of Accounts Office. Every school district and charter school in this state needs a thorough audit. We cannot continue like this. Our children lose every single time. All this talk of extra funding for schools… the funds are already there. We just need to redefine the existing funding and find a system where those funds are used equitably for all students. We can’t afford to stick with the status quo and then act shocked when we see reports like the Indian River one last week.
A Potter’s field is a graveyard for the unwanted and the indigent. It is the final resting place for the unwanted of society. Delaware State Rep. Charles Potter thwarted a deal that could have renovated Baynard Stadium into something children could really enjoy. Instead, he convinced Wilmington City Council to stop a deal with Salesianum, a Delaware private school, into donating $20 million dollars to make the Wilmington municipal recreational area into a state of the art facility. Why?
The Delaware News Journal wrote an editorial on this very odd move of a State Representative yesterday.
In the “Save Baynard Stadium” email sent Nov. 11, Potter rallied constituents to oppose the Salesianum offer, saying “To give control of the stadium to a private school, which would then control and determine the athletic playing schedule for field use could place public school children, youth groups and community groups at a disadvantage, for a minimum of 50 years. I do not believe that it is in the best interests of the children in the city of Wilmington to have their future athletic extracurricular options determined by a private school.”
However, as the News Journal pointed out, this was already part of the proposal by Salesianum. They would have accounted for all of Potter’s concerns in the plan he should have actually read and understood. Wilmington needs a lot of help, so why kill a deal that would have benefited the city immensely? While boasting about securing $200,000 for new bleachers at the stadium, he undermined a deal that would have given the park $20 million dollars. Why?
There is no question that any deal between Salesianum and the city would have had to clearly state usage parameters that were beneficial for all parties. And we firmly believe such parameters were already on paper. But then Mr. Potter fumbled the $20 million ball.
I hope Potter’s fumble didn’t ruin any chance Baynard Stadium has of getting a deal like this in the future. As someone who writes all the time about the dangers of corporate interference in education, this deal was harmless. It would have benefited the City of Wilmington and the children who use this park. In reading the editorial, it seems more a matter of ego for Potter instead of doing the right thing for kids. And yet I don’t see Potter doing much to stop real corporate interference in education. I just don’t get it. How is saving a municipal park that is already rundown and turning it into something better justifiable in any possible way?
That’s what Salesianum School was planning to spend on renovating the stadium. That’s $20 million in private donations.
Not user fees.
Not tax increases.
Just private donations.
Thumbs down of the week to Rep. Potter… bad form…
In a deal that can only be seen as very controversial, the News Journal has a huge article in their paper today on the less than promised job giver. The heart of the article deals with how Bloom Energy was supposed to create 900 jobs for Delaware but instead only created 277. But there is part of the article that links to the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program:
The Governor said Bloom would not abandon the hundreds of manufacturing jobs it created and the state. He added that the company has been involved in community groups, including one of Markell’s favorite programs, Pathways to Prosperity. The program prepares high school students with in-demand job skills by having them work at local companies, including Bloom.
So are these Pathways students that work at Bloom included in the 277 Delaware employees? Do they get the same wage as a non-student Pathways employees? Only Jack Markell would try to find sunshine in a hurricane. Bloom Energy was not as bad as Gray Davis’ horrible energy deal in California but there are similarities. Davis was impeached in a California referendum back in 2003 and Arnold Schwarzenegger became the Governor during a recall election. Delaware would never have the strength to do that to Governor Markell, especially since he only has a few months left in office. How many other Pathways jobs are linked to bad deals from Jack Markell?
Senator Sokola. You need to get a Governor to try to win an election. The Negan and Lucille of public education. I would quote their silly little letter to the News Journal, but it is all rubbish. Nothing you haven’t heard before. It appears desperation breeds laziness in these two. When they can’t come up with anything new, they resort to the same old every single time. It is a broken record trying to be heard when the record player stopped working years ago. Yawn…
God help us if David Sokola is re-elected. Which means Meredith Chapman has to win! We don’t need Governor Markell’s right-hand man destroying public education for another term. Markell wouldn’t have been able to get 3/4 of his initiatives through without his Lucille.
This is the second time in the past two months we have been subjected to Sokolaness in the opinion section of the News Journal. The last time was Sokola taking credit for the Council of State Legislatures big report on public education. As if education would just stop working unless David Sokola wasn’t involved. You have seen the videos. DSEA did not endorse him. But he is fine with endorsing a bogus lawsuit against Christina School District. John Carney has the Sokola blinders on. He screws over teachers every chance he gets. He helped Newark Charter School get away with financial invisibility. He serves on the Joint Finance Committee with this fellow Newark Charter School cheerleader. He keeps his knife sharp so when he betrays his peers in the General Assembly it has the sharpest cut. He brought the DSTP and Smarter Balanced Assessment into our schools. He does not support parental rights. He has a very bizarre partnership with the 2016 Genghis Khan of teacher evaluations. When he lost his political prowess last Spring, the Governor had to issue an Executive Order to do the job Sokola couldn’t do. He rips on blogs while providing the ammunition they hurl at him. He chickened out on a vote to put the State Board of Education under Sunset Review.
Sadly, Delaware being what it is, his fellow Democrats are forced to support him. As the Lucille to Jack Markell’s Negan, Sokola smashes Delaware public education constantly. And then Jack takes all the credit.
Adam Duvernay with the News Journal wrote on article for today’s newspaper. It was the same article that appeared on Delawareonline last evening, but it had a very shocking addition at the end of it.
I apologize for the fuzziness of the picture. But that is very serious. Why should a teacher have to sue a school district when they were poisoned by conditions at the workplace? Is that really what this boils down to for the district? A profit/loss statement? Why wouldn’t they have just offered to pay for her treatment? I have no doubt this won’t be the last I hear about something like this in Christina, much less Delaware. There is something seriously jacked up when our schools can’t provide a healthy environment for our students and teachers.
Pulaski. Downes. Glasgow. Newark H.S. Kirk. Gallaher. Brennan. Gauger-Cobbs. How many more schools are going to come out in this mess? How far back do those go? How big is the cover-ups surrounding Christina’s toxic schools? This is going to be one hell of a board meeting on Tuesday night!
Within two days after I broke the story about the Pulaski Kennel Cough, WDEL and The News Journal jumped on the story. The quid pro quo in Delaware media doesn’t seem to apply for the “mainstream” journalists who pick up news from the bloggers. I always link to their information, but apparently that fair play doesn’t go both ways, but I digress.
This morning, the Delaware Division of Public Health is performing a walk-through at Pulaski Elementary School. This will be followed by a 12 noon press conference at Pulaski with Christina Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski, Wilmington 6th District City Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey-Walker, and a representative from the Delaware ’87ers. The purpose of the press conference will be to discuss the mold issue in the school.
For those who are downplaying this issue, it is VERY serious. And I am just putting this out there again… NO TEACHER WILL BE IN ANY WAY PENALIZED OR HAVE RAMIFICATIONS FOR TALKING ABOUT THESE ISSUES. I will expose it more than I just did on the Susan Monday show on WDEL this morning. Don’t even think I’m kidding! This doesn’t just apply to Pulaski or Christina, but any Delaware school. If you wish to remain anonymous, I will protect that right. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk or send pictures. These teachers speaking out about these issues are heroes and deserve whistleblower protection. They are sticking their necks out to reveal this information and if anyone gets ready to sharpen the axe, think twice…
Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many. Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night. They showed some very extreme violations of state code. As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies. These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools: Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler). These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office. Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released. But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring. Now we can clearly see why.
Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive. The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”? That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.
We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well. We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either. State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office. It could be a combination of any of these people. It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.
Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection. That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett. When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders. Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity. Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School. Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security. Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware. Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican. Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters. I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.
Odyssey Charter School:
- petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
- 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
- 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83
Delaware Military Academy:
- had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
- checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
- 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
- failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”
Charter School of Wilmington:
- had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
- no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
- 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
- had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:
- had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
- never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
- no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
- 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11
- 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
- maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95
So let me get this straight. Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture? And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters? That were NEVER released to the public, until now? And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky. All charter school leaders and board presidents. My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools. As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office. As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program. But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:
We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible. Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.
So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable. She followed the procedure. Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless. Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock. A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well. But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner. And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky? How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law? Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner? This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.
This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware. They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues. We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb. One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas. They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders. They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that. If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.
This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula. I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course. As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit. They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen. Which they did. Delaware is a very corrupt state. If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked. There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt. If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.
But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit. One Kathleen Davies. The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections. One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS. While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed. Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions. NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out. It had to disappear. We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires. But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe. It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements. But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies. Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact. I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.
Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office. This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.
She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.
Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor. What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts. By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year. There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.
Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.
All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law. But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school. Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether. Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this. Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way. As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September. That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.
At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies. If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here. This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District. As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:
515 Oversight and revocation process.
(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.
(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.
Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner. Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware. Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing. Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality. They are what outside interests want. These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.
This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity. As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this. As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors? I believe it is time to find out. It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances. Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware. If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.
In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:
Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell
Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos
Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli
On September 2nd, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and Assistant Deputy Secretary David Blowman met with Greg Meece, Stephen Dressel, Joanne Schlossberg, Chuck Taylor, Margie Lopez-Waite, Kendall Massett, and William Manning at Newark Charter School. The last name is important because William Manning is the lead attorney in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education. William Manning is a partner at Saul Ewing LLP, which also happens to be the lead charter school attorney law firm.
Delaware charter schools, especially ones alleged to “cherry-pick” students, have long complained about not getting their rightful share of money while at the same time they constantly boast how they “do more with less”. In fact, Manning complained about this to the U.S. Congress back in 2000, as I wrote in an article last year:
I believe, as do many of you, that charter schools are already improving the educational landscape by offering variety, quality and single-school focus to those who previously had to pay to get those things. That’s the good news. The bad news is that charter schools are still regarded by the educational establishment in some quarters as the enemy. Thus, the organization that owns our school buildings is sometimes stingy with them when it comes to housing charter schools. Nor do the funding formulae in many state charter school bills provide adequate capital- as opposed to operating- assistance to charter schools. Please don’t overlook them.
Manning served as the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education when the original Delaware charter school law was written in 1995. But where this gets more interesting is Manning’s very direct tie with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. His wife, Martha Manning, created the Delaware Charter Schools Network. She is also on the boards of Innovative Schools and the Red Clay Education Foundation.
Martha Manning stepped down from the Delaware Charter Schools Network in 2006, but her husband is still heavily involved with Saul Ewing LLP. It was not a coincidence he was called in for the Sept. 2nd meeting at Newark Charter School, mentioned above. Chuck Taylor is the Head of School and Providence Creek Academy, the President of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and a member of the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education. Margie Lopez-Waite runs Las Americas ASPIRAS. And Kendall Massett… good old Kendall… who gave a presentation at the State Board of Education meeting last month on, of all possible things, charter and district collaboration. The irony is still astounding! Kendall gave a quote to the News Journal yesterday:
Kendall Massett, director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said in a prepared statement, “We applaud the state Department of Education for recognizing the out-of-proportion exclusion requests from Christina School District this year and for taking steps to bring them in line, in the interest of fairness for students and to make the process consistent among all districts. But that decision was reversed after the deadline mandated by state law.”
Whatever Kendall! Many decisions were made without full clarity. In fact, the whole process beginning with the NCS Trio getting a meeting with David Blowman wasn’t readily shared with all district financial officers. In fact, we can see how the Delaware DOE actually blew off Robert Silber when he asked the DOE why they wanted a list of district exclusions.
This was why State Rep. John Kowalko submitted a request to Secretary Godowsky in early September for a list of who was involved and specific dates. Godowsky did provide that timeline and specific names to Rep. Kowalko on September 20th. Rep. Kowalko asked me to share this with the public so that everyone knows what the specific timeline was and who was involved in each step. In addition, there are several emails from the Delaware DOE to charter and school leaders.
From: May Alison <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:45 AM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Cc: Godowsky, Steven (K12)
Subject: information request
Please find answers embedded in red below as well as attached copies of email correspondence in response to your questions.
I need to know the details of the meeting in April which was attended by Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel and David Blowman, with a list of anyone else who attended that meeting, whether from DOE, State Board, or other (for instance the DE Charter Schools Network, etc.). I would like to know if any legislators attended that meeting. I am also asking if there were additional meetings with any smaller groups discussing this matter and who were attendees. I want to know if there were any unannounced meetings w/CFOs or Superintendents regarding this issue. I realize the DOE has monthly meetings, usually separate, with all the charter and district CFOs. Has anyone else attended these meetings?
Those four were the only ones at the meeting, which occurred at the request of the school.
Please send me a timeline of events, including:
When the CFOs were notified about submitting a list of excluded information (in May as I’ve been made aware by one district) and whether the notification went to all districts and when was that list due.
*Discussed at April 8 Business Managers meeting (see agenda from April 7 email attached)
*Follow-up email sent May 25 (see attached)
*Christina response received June 8 (see attached)
Which individuals took part in the decision-making process regarding which exclusions were allowable or not allowable by DOE
*David Blowman, Brook Hughes and Kim Wheatley
When (specific date needed) the new allowable exclusion list was sent to CFOs/Superintendents
*August 8 (see attached)
When (specific date) charters were notified so they could send their bills to DOE to send to districts
*August 12 (see attached)
When (specific date) DOE sent those bills to the districts
*August 16 (see attached)
When Bob Silber (Christina CFO) was notified of the exclusion issue with Christina
*See above dates
Please send a list of all persons that attended the meeting at Newark Charter last week. Steve Godowsky, David Blowman, Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel, Margie Lopez-Waite, Bill Manning, Chuck Taylor, Kendall Massett
As you can surmise I expect a list of any and all attendees at any meeting discussing this issue. Please send an accurate report of this information to me as soon as possible.
This also was discussed with superintendents at their September 1 Chief School Officers Association (CSOA) meeting at POLYTECH.
And this is what the Delaware DOE sent to State Rep. Kowalko in terms of email discussions concerning this issue. Note the absence of any emails from the Newark Charter School trio to anyone at the DOE prior to April 8th when they would have requested the initial meeting with Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman.
In the complaint against Christina and the DOE, it states the charters want a full accounting of what funds were excluded from the local payments to charters going back to 2008. Why 2008? At that time, the Superintendent of the Christina School District was Lillian Lowery. Shortly after Governor Markell’s first inauguration in 2009, Lillian Lowery was confirmed by the Delaware Senate to become the Delaware Secretary of Education. The looming question is what was signed off on back in 2008 and 2009 by the Delaware DOE. Obviously, NCS feels this is some type of crucial timeframe which pertains to the lawsuit. But the even bigger question is who was giving them information and why. I’ve heard some wild tales about that timeframe. But until I am able to confirm anything, I will remain mum.
The News Journal just reported that a group of Delaware charter schools are suing Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education over the charter school funding issue that I broke at the end of August. This is unbelievable! I can’t believe they have the unmitigated gall to go behind the districts’ backs all Spring, have the DOE issue “updated” funding formulas in August, and then sue Christina and the DOE after Secretary Godowsky reversed course on the plan.
And who does the News Journal have as a fresh picture, taken two days ago? None other than Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. When Newark Charter School’s Head of School Greg Meece and Kendall Massett get together, we should expect nothing but trouble. For all of Massett’s talk about wanting district and charter collaboration, she sure has a funny way of showing it.
Fifteen charter schools have filed suit against the state Department of Education and Christina School District to get what they claim is their fair share of funding. Christina has been withholding millions of dollars in local tax revenue from charter schools for years and the Department of Education has been complicit, according to the lawsuit.
Their fair share of funding is what they already get. I actually can’t wait to see this go to court. I will say it here and now… the charter schools will lose! Who is paying for their attorney fees?
Under the adjusted formula, Christina School District would have had to pay about $3 million more this year than it had been planning. For Newark Charter School, one of the chief beneficiaries of those funds, that would have meant an additional $1 million in revenue.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again… this amounts to Greg Meece going for an unprecedented money grab for Christina after they won their referendum last Spring. And I also have a pretty good idea why he thinks the charters will win. But I will hold that close to the vest for now. But that one goes all the way to the top of Delaware, right Jack? So how far back does this lawsuit go? How about 2008!
The lawsuit aims at reinstating the adjustments made to the statewide formula and forcing Christina to pay back what it has withheld since 2008.
Newark Charter knows that if they win this would bankrupt Christina which I have no doubt is their overall plan. And what then? All of Christina goes back to the state and would most likely convert to charters. Is Meece going to lead his long dreamed of Newark Charter School Network and take all those kids he didn’t want for the past 15 years? I know what happened in 2008 when a former Christina Board member told Meece they would get additional funds from their referendum but the board member spoke out of turn. Ever since, Meece has been gunning for Christina because of bad information. I also have a pretty good idea of where Meece got certain information from that is making him think he has a case. That will be the true revelation when all is revealed!
I would have to assume these fifteen charters are the ones that get funding from Christina School District, which is most likely every one in New Castle County.
I had an email forwarded to me this evening concerning an incident at Newark Charter School earlier this week. While checking to see if something happened, I found the News Journal already covered this. But what the News Journal didn’t publish was the email Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece sent to the parents about the altercation between a teacher and a student. You can see that below. But I have several dozen questions about this incident which didn’t even come up in the article. While I respect the fact that Meece can’t talk about the incident because it involves an employee, the comments on the News Journal article spin many different tales…
He said the incident was in a classroom earlier this week and involved a female high school student and teacher in a physical altercation over a cell phone. He added the cell phone did not belong to the student. Meece said neither was at school Friday, but no formal disciplinary action has been taken at this time.
Excuse me? A teacher has a physical altercation with a student and NO arrest was made? Seriously? Since when can a teacher have ANY type of physical altercation with a student? Has the student and teacher been out of school all week? Where is the due process for the student and the teacher if NO formal disciplinary action has been taken at this time? Was “informal” disciplinary action taken?
This is the definition of a physical altercation, with certain words bolded for emphasis:
A physical altercation is defined as being an argument, dispute or altercation that involves force or physical aggression. Physical altercations differ from verbal altercations because physical contact is involved. These types of disputes are sometimes referred to as fights and may legally qualify as battery.
A peaceful gathering? Maybe for the students, but according to this commenter on Facebook, the school wasn’t too happy about it…
That is a very different yarn than the one spun by Greg Meece in his email to the parents and the News Journal:
“The principal of our building spoke to the students and thanked them for their voices and being heard,” Meece said.
What happens at Newark Charter Schools stays at Newark Charter School… until a student and a teacher have a physical altercation that is. I don’t know why Newark Charter School treats itself like it is an isolated school cut off from the rest of the state. How much goes on there that the public has no clue about? If someone didn’t tip off the News Journal or myself on this, who would have known? But we see teachers getting arrested in Delaware. For more egregious things than this, but it happens. Perhaps the teacher was defending herself. But according to the above commenter, it was all a lie. If there was any physical force involved, were the police notified? The Senate Bill which minimizes when the police are called, Senate Bill 207, passed in the Delaware General Assembly this year, but it was very specific in its language to specify “between students”. It did not mention staff members. Which means Newark Charter School, if they did not notify the police, may have broken the law. Whether it was a student or a teacher, if the matter became physical, they are legally obligated to do so. Why didn’t the News Journal question that aspect of the story?
Scandals? Sweeping things under the rug? I thought NCS was this model of good behavior and nothing happened there…
It is hard to believe this particular commenter in one aspect. If this happened Monday, there is no possible way the parents could have sued the teacher in four days. They may have talked to an attorney, but nothing moves that fast. But they are absolutely right that students should have a voice. The threats coming out of the administration when students were having a peaceful sit-in could have been treated with more respect if the above commenter’s comments are true.
What does Newark Charter School’s code of conduct say about this kind of incident? It doesn’t reference this specific type of situation, but it does say this:
Referral to Police Agency is required for students who intentionally and offensively touch a staff member who is attempting to break up a fight or who is attempting to keep a student from injuring him/herself or others. Recommendation for expulsion may be considered.
But they do reference House Bill 322, which the Delaware General Assembly passed in 1997:
In addition to any action taken by school officials, the school will comply with the notification requirements of H.B. 322 which includes notification of police.
This was in a section that talked about fighting. I hate to keep beating on the same drum, but if this was an incident that was so minor, why would Meece refer to it as a “physical altercation” which has a very definitive legal meaning?
Are parents allowed to discuss this incident? On the closed to members only NCS Parents Facebook page, it was a huge topic of discussion this week until the moderator deleted all the comments about it to protect the identity of the student and the teacher. Even though all the parents already knew about it. This was reported to me by a few parents of students who belong to that page.
Newark Charter School needs to be more open and honest with parents about situations, instead of putting on an “everything’s fine” face with the News Journal. There was a lot Meece could have talked about with this article, but I’ve always been told Meece is a very smart man and chooses his words very carefully. But no public school receiving taxpayer dollars should think they can isolate themselves from transparency. They aren’t North Korea.
I’ve heard of many teachers at NCS getting fired with no form of due process whatsoever. Delaware charter schools do not have teacher unions which, in this case, would have given the teacher protection if they were fired over this. But we will most likely never know because of the isolationist mindset coming from this school…
The News Journal article on what would have amounted to closure of Delaware day treatment centers until the State of Delaware reversed course mentions an email sent to legislators about the situation. But the article by News Journal reporter James Fisher only touched on part of the email. I want to give credit to Fisher for what was undoubtedly a confusing day with so much changing on this story. Several legislators forwarded this email to me and I feel it is something the public deserves to see. What concerns me are some of the new treatments that will be provided in schools. These may not be covered under the HIPAA law for medical privacy if they take place in an educational setting. I haven’t done enough research (yet) to determine how effective these treatments are for patients, but what are they taking the place of? Is this a question of Medicaid funding and federal mandate or what is best for the outcomes of the children and teenagers in getting the best care possible?
Before I get to the email sent to the legislators, the News Journal corrected the article since the original one from noon today. In the original, it cited a representative from Indian River School District who stated all Delaware Superintendents received an email on August 26th notifying them of the upcoming Medicaid changes with day treatment centers. They took out that part, verified they (James Fisher) saw the email, but added this in:
“I’m not aware of any other place for them to go at this point,” said Bruce Kelsey, executive director of Delaware Guidance Services, which serves 24 children at a time in Kent and Sussex counties, in an interview hours before DSCYF sent the legislator letter.
His organization, he said, was preparing to have to re-assign or lay off employees who worked in day treatment.
“It’s heartbreaking, of course. It’s very tough. It’s been a good program,” Kelsey said.
Then on Thursday, Kelsey said he’d been notified that DGS’s funding for the program — making up about one-twelfth of the DGS budget — would not end in November after all.
Dawn Thompson, a spokeswoman for the department, said early Thursday afternoon the department had not made any decision to cut off program funding for day treatment. When Medicaid’s support of the programs ended in July, she said, the department made up the difference with state funds.
“We’re not reversing. No decision had been made to stop anything,” Thompson said.
Asked why Delaware Guidance Services believed the funding for its day treatment program was due to expire, Thompson said: “That must have been a misinterpretation.”
Later on Thursday, Thompson provided an Aug. 26 email from the department to school districts saying, in part: “Day treatment as previously structured will not be provided after December 2016.”
Clarifying her earlier comments, she said: “I do not believe I had been made aware of a communication to service providers detailing an end date.”
This is the entire email sent to the legislators last night which matches verbatim for the part that was cited in the News Journal article today.
There has been concern expressed about the future of day treatment for children in Delaware, and I’d like to give you some information that may be helpful to you and your constituents. Over the next few months, we will be offering opportunities for people to come together to discuss how we can best serve the children and families in our state. We want feedback and ideas from all our various stakeholders including families, educators, providers, and community partners.
In the meantime, PBH will continue to offer mental health services, including day treatment if appropriate, to children and youth who receive Medicaid benefits or are uninsured. Also, PBH will continue to offer services ranging in level of intensity from traditional outpatient services through in-patient hospitalization. Every treatment option currently available to children and families will remain an option going forward until the stakeholders have been engaged and the system is ready for a transition. As before, treatment will be individualized, flexible, and adapted to meet the needs of the child and family.
By way of background, I’d like to tell you about what we’ve done to enhance community and family based services for our children and families. These types of services are provided to our clients without causing a disruption to their already established community connections such as school or sports teams. The new services are supported by research and have been effective with children, youth and families across the country and in contiguous states. As we speak to stakeholders in the coming months, we will be focusing and seeking feedback on the benefits of these new services. In particular, we would like to discuss whether the treatment available through these programs is more likely to result in better outcomes for children and their families than some existing options, including day treatment programs.
The community based treatment options are things like Multisystemic Therapy (MST), which is a home-based intensive family and community-based treatment that addresses multiple aspects of serious conduct related behavior in adolescents. MST typically targets chronic, aggressive youth who are at high risk of out-of-home placement.
Another new option is Functional Family Therapy (FFT). FFT is a short-term, family-focused, community-based treatment for youth who are either “at risk” for, or who manifest, antisocial behavioral problems such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, violent acting-out and substance abuse disorders.
A third type of service added to our continuum is one called Family Based Mental Health Services. These are designed to serve children between 3 and 17 years of age and their families (parents, guardians, caretakers and siblings). These children have a serious mental illness or emotional disturbance, are at risk for out-of-home placement into residential treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals or other settings. The focus of treatment is on the child and family system. Family Based Mental Health Services treat these children and adolescents in their homes, communities and schools thus allowing the youth to remain in the home. Services are available 24 hours per day and 7 days a week via on call therapist and include crisis intervention as a part of the service.
These are just three of the services that will soon be available to clients in all three counties. Additionally, the families will also be able to benefit from various therapeutic supports which can be available in the home and school in conjunction with other medically necessary treatment services.
We would be happy to speak with you or your constituents regarding our enhanced range of services, and our approach to care management. Our commitment continues to be to the children, youth and families of our state.
Please feel free to contact PBH Director Susan Cycyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her office at 302-633-2600. She will be happy to share updated information as it becomes available as well as information regarding our other school-based programs including the elementary school Family Crisis Therapists and the middle school Behavioral Health Consultants.
Steven E. Yeatman
Chief Policy Advisor
Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families
1825 Faulkland Road
Wilmington, DE 19805
Office – (302) 633-2505
Editor’s note: The email did contain the cell phone of the PBH Director but I took that out for her privacy as that was given to legislators.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services clearly states what is covered under HIPAA and what is under FERPA in the following information from their website:
The school is not a HIPAA covered entity. The HIPAA Privacy Rule only applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that transmit health information electronically in connection with certain administrative and financial transactions (“covered transactions”). See 45 CFR § 160.102. Covered transactions are those for which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has adopted a standard, such as health care claims submitted to a health plan. See the definition of “transaction” at 45 CFR § 160.103 and 45 CFR Part 162, Subparts K–R. Thus, even though a school employs school nurses, physicians, psychologists, or other health care providers, the school is not generally a HIPAA covered entity because the providers do not engage in any of the covered transactions, such as billing a health plan electronically for their services. It is expected that most elementary and secondary schools fall into this category.
The school is a HIPAA covered entity but does not have “protected health information.” Where a school does employ a health care provider that conducts one or more covered transactions electronically, such as electronically transmitting health care claims to a health plan for payment, the school is a HIPAA covered entity and must comply with the HIPAA Transactions and Code Sets and Identifier Rules with respect to such transactions. However, even in this case, many schools would not be required to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule because the school maintains health information only in student health records that are “education records” under FERPA and, thus, not “protected health information” under HIPAA. Because student health information in education records is protected by FERPA, the HIPAA Privacy Rule excludes such information from its coverage. See the exception at paragraph (2)(i) to the definition of “protected health information” in the HIPAA Privacy Rule at 45 CFR § 160.103. For example, if a public high school employs a health care provider that bills Medicaid electronically for services provided to a student under the IDEA, the school is a HIPAA covered entity and would be subject to the HIPAA requirements concerning transactions. However, if the school’s provider maintains health information only in what are education records under FERPA, the school is not required to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Rather, the school would have to comply with FERPA’s privacy requirements with respect to its education records, including the requirement to obtain parental consent (34 CFR § 99.30) in order to disclose to Medicaid billing information about a service provided to a student.
In 2011, FERPA was changed to allow student information to go out to the following according to the final regulations from the U.S. DOE:
(6)(i) The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to:
(A) Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests;
(B) Administer student aid programs; or
(C) Improve instruction.
Shortly after the 2011 changes to FERPA, the blog Utahns Against Common Core asked the following:
Why would the federal government want to track genetic and medical information coupled with educational information in a cradle to grave longitudinal database (which Utah has implemented)? Why is the Gates Foundation funding biometric tracking? Why is the Gates Foundation co-hosting the London International Eugenics Conference with Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) next month? Why would the Department of Health and Human Services under Kathleen Sebelius (responsible for the FERPA changes listed above) be offering $75 million in grants for schools to open health clinics inside their schools away from parental oversight? Why did the Gates Foundation sign a 2004 agreement with UNESCO (U.N. Education arm) to create a global education system and then pay nearly $20 million to the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State Superintendents Organization to prompt them to create Common Core?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the federal government is in the business of control and not education. Why aren’t Utah leaders moving to protect Utahn’s from these overreaches of the federal government? Schools will become the ultimate laboratories in fulfillment of Marc Tucker’s dream for creating central planning for the American workforce.
Why indeed… Do I trust these therapies for students coming into schools? I don’t know. They could very well be very good therapies. What I don’t trust is how the data from these school-based services could filter out. This would be very personal medical information. I don’t trust anything involved with the complete redesign of education by folks like the Gates Foundation. Control is slipping away at a very fast pace without the ability of the public to have advanced knowledge of all these steps taking place over the past five to six years. They will gather “public input” on all these changes when they should have done that in the first place.
Whether Delaware intended this in the first place is not known, but given all the information and research I have seen, I can only guess that this was the intention. At the very least, there are far too many state agencies involved in this situation with the day treatment centers: DOE, DHSS, DSCYF, and lord knows who else. But it almost seems as if they create a scenario, like this one, where they know parents will openly revolt about changes to the mental health system in the state, react by creating a “public comment” period, and wind up implementing new policies and legislation based on what they want. I’ve seen this in the Department of Education too many times to count, and it looks like our Department of Health and Social Services is doing this. Or maybe they always have and I just wasn’t paying attention.
I’ve written about private information getting out into the hands of outside companies before. I wrote at length, ironically enough, about the Medicaid Reimbursement program and a company called Public Consulting Group (PCG). This was in regards to the reimbursements the state gets for providers like Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, or Psychologists to name a few when they provide special education services in schools. I wrote the article on PCG and the Delaware DOE over two years ago. PCG is still the vendor for the state Medicaid reimbursement program as well as other contracts with the Delaware DOE, including the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities Strategic Plan.
With today’s plethora of education think-tanks, non-profits and for-profit education companies, this opens a goldmine of student information that is allowed to go out. While this information does not contain personally identifiable information and is based on a students state-assigned identification number, that research can go back to the State DOE who could easily create a birth to 21 tracking system for students. Parents need to wake up and demand FERPA is restored to its pre-2011 levels before any chance of protecting their kids personal information is gone forever.
Another education blogger, Gadfly On The Wall, wrote an excellent article earlier today aptly titled “The Child Predator We Invite Into Our Schools” with great detail about the upcoming changes in education and the student data mining portion of what is going on. I don’t see what he talks about and what I’m talking about as two different things. They are pieces of a huge violation of privacy rights going on in our schools. Wake up parents, wake up…
It’s about time! After almost two years of waiting for Sean Moore to get charged with something, information comes out that he is being charged by the feds for theft. This very quick blurb in the News Journal states Moore has three federal counts against him. As most folks in Delaware know, Moore, along with his co-charter leader/co-conspirator Dr. Tennell Brewington, both formerly with Family Foundations Academy in New Castle, DE, got busted after a forensic audit showed they spent over $150,000 in school funds for personal use. They were terminated and the school could have closed if a nearby charter school didn’t essentially take them over.
I was curious why Moore was charged by the feds and not Brewington. Either they haven’t announced anything for her yet or her theft of taxpayer money for personal use didn’t involve anything with federal dollars.
Now we just have to wait for the other former charter thieves, Noel Rodriguez of Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens of Providence Creek Academy, to get their charges. Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn hinted to me almost a year ago that “other parties” were looking at these situations. As I waited and waited, with nothing coming out, I took it upon myself to contact the FBI about this earlier in the spring. I imagine Denn’s hands were tied once the feds became involved and he obviously couldn’t say anything concrete about it. I’m glad he was on the up and up about it though.
This is the only information I could find on these charges, but it looks like the Associated Press picked up on it because the same story appears in the Washington Post and many other media outlets. There is an important lesson here: don’t steal from kids. This is what happens when you get caught! As more information on this becomes available I will certainly give updates. I can’t find the actual court filing yet, but once information becomes available, you will know!
An email from Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola sheds new light on the district-charter funding debacle that has taken over Delaware education talk in the past week. Meanwhile, the News Journal came out with another article on the issue that is sure to confuse everyone.
In the below email sent from Jaques to the House Education Committee, he gives a timeline of the events from the point in time he got involved in the issue and clarifies when Secretary of Education Dr. Stephen Godowsky found out about this. He also put in a reply Sokola sent to a constituent regarding the issue which has some very accusatory statements toward Christina School District.
From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) Sent: Thursday, September 1, 2016 2:41 PM To: Bentz, David (LegHall); Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Dukes, Timothy (LegHall); Heffernan, Debra (LegHall); Hensley, Kevin S (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Miro, Joseph (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall) Cc: Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall)
Subject: School Funding Formula
House Education Committee Members, Late last week I received notice about a formula change between Charter Schools and our traditional Public Schools. I immediately called and talked with Secretary Godowsky to see if what I heard was correct and if so why was this change being made. I was told by him that yes a change was proposed and he wasn’t aware of this change until just the day before. On a side note, I wasn’t very happy to hear about this – since I and Dr. Godowsky just had breakfast only a couple of days before this news broke and no mention of this was discussed by him to me! I was told by Dr. Godowsky that he has put a hold on any possible changes to the funding formula until there are complete discussionswith all stakeholders. I then called Governor Markell to voice both my concern and outrage at how this proposed change was brought forward with no regards to public input, transparency or discussion with either myself or Senator Sokola. I then called Superintendent Burrows, this year’s head of the chiefs, and was assured by him that no discussions between the “chiefs” and DOE regarding this change had occurred. Their only acknowledgement came when they starting receiving bills from the charter schools and subsequently called DOE to find out what was going on. On the very next day I was at a public event with Governor Markell. He reinstated to me that no actions regarding the funding formula will occur this year and any discussions on this subject will be transparent and inclusive. Again, I followed up with Secretary Godowsky, requesting that any changes to the formula would require an open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders and plenty of public input. Today, there was a story in the News Journal that you might want to read to gain more insight.
In addition, I have attached below part of an email that Senator Sokola sent to one of his constituents which gives very good details and background on the formula mechanism. Although, his email talks about the Christina School District, I want to remind you that this formula applies to all public schools across our state.
“It turns out that the funding formula has not changed, and the Secretary does not have the authority to change the formula that is in the code. There have been times over the years when there have been disputes about how the formula works, and apparently we have one now. The dispute relates to the part of the code that allows for certain exemptions from the money that “follows the child” to a Choice or Charter alternative. The code allows for 4 specific areas and then has some general language that allows a district to petition the Secretary of Education to allow for additional exemptions of local operating funds, and to sign off on those itemized expenses. The Christina District increased that line from under $700 thousand to about $9.2 million since 2011, and has not asked the Secretary for approval of the increased exemptions. No other district in NCC has had anything but nominal changes in that time frame. The money in question also has nothing to do with the Autism Program or the Program for the Hearing Impaired that are managed by Christina. It is my understanding that any action from the Secretary at this time is on hold, however Christina still has a legal obligation to specify those expenses beyond the 4 that are in the code that should be exempt, and to have a formal sign off by the Secretary. I have supported for quite some time a weighted student funding policy, and would hope that we could make more progress on such a funding system. The money needs to specifically follow a student to a school, which is not done well in Delaware including in Christina. Dispute resolution should be done by some mutually agreed upon mechanism, or one established in the code. If there still is not agreement, we have constitutionally protected separation of powers, and the legal system would be the mechanism of last resort. That is generally not a win-win result for the parties who are in disagreement.
The specific funding issues you mentioned can certainly be submitted to the Secretary and the district needs to be open, transparent and detailed with the financial records to make their case. The Secretary will be willing to consider the specific lines of exemption that CSD has the legal obligation to propose. He would be negligent if he did not follow his statutory authority to review any specific exemptions proposed by CSD, and CSD would be negligent by not specifically submitting line items of proposed exemptions to the formula that is in the code. If CSD does not make specific proposals, the district is at risk of legal action that the legislature and the Secretary are constitutionally barred from intervening in. My hope and advice to the Secretary has been to give broad discretion to the specifics identified by Christina, and that we could have that open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders to clarify the financial obligations of a sending district to the various choice options made by students and families.”
As I receive additional information regarding this subject I will keep you informed…
Chair, House Education Committee
So how is that Sokola tells a constituent that Christina performed this horrible deed but the News Journal doesn’t mention it once? Sokola is saying Christina purposely withheld submitting their exclusions from the Delaware DOE. Jaques states Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows didn’t know about this situation unfolding since last April until recently. So how is it that the DOE asked the districts for this information in April as suggested by Saranac Spencer, the author of the News Journal article? Actually, it was in May based on the below timeline.
In order to try to unify the system, the department began considering adjustments to the formula in April, when it asked districts across the state for an inventory of the exclusions they claim.
The actual timeline of events is as follows:
March 11th: Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece meets with Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzjewski to discuss the upcoming Christina referendum and payments from Christina to NCS. (source: Newark Charter School March 2016 Board Minutes)
Early April 2016: NCS representatives Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel meet with Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman to discuss exclusions in the funds Christina sends to NCS. The DOE indicates all exclusions will require approval from the Secretary of Education. (Source NCS April and May Board minutes)
April 8th: DOE holds District Business Manager’s meeting where the subject of district exclusions is brought up with District Chief Financial Officers.
May 2016: DOE sends out notices to District CFOs to send lists of their exclusion items in their local school budgets.
Mid-May: Kathleen Davies put on leave as Auditor of Accounts at Delaware State Auditor’s office.
August 8th: DOE sends out letters to District CFOs stating what exclusions are allowable and which aren’t.
Week of August 16th: Districts start receiving bills from charter schools for projected students choicing to charters from their districts.
August 19th: Secretary Godowsky finds out about situation going on with charter school payments from districts.
Week of Augusts 23rd: Word on situation slowly trickles out to school administration and some boards.
August 27th: Exceptional Delaware breaks news of a coming change in the way districts pay charters based on an approval from Secretary Godowsky, blogger was given information from various sources about changes regarding restricted funds being moved to non-restricted funds, no information given to blogger about specific exclusions.
August 28th: Legislators pound Godowsky who informs them there will be no change in the funding structure this year.
August 31st: News Journal covers story and states districts may have to adhere to the exemption list from the August 8th letter.
September 1st: NCS Board President Stephen Dressel writes letter to NCS parents alleging wrongdoing from Christina and a “few other districts”, states this isn’t a change in the formula for local cost per student but a correction, commenter on Facebook alleges parents from Las Americas ASPIRA also received a similar letter.
September 1st: Another News Journal article quotes DOE Spokeswoman Alison May as stating they may not be able to change this because bills already went out from charters to districts.
September 1st: Email from Earl Jaques to House Education Committee references a change in the formula, not a correction, email also has Sokola accusing Christina of not sending approval for exclusions to Secretary since 2011 for what was a $700,000 amount then which is now $9.2 million.
Here is the question no one seems to be addressing though. What is the amount in that discretionary budget was approved once and didn’t have to be again? When a district goes out for a referendum, it asks taxpayers to help the district pay for certain things. What if Christina had a referendum at one point in time, designated a specific amount for what would become an exclusion in their local budget, and the DOE approved it. Say that was 10 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. As Sokola alleges, Christina kept shoving money into this fund causing it to rise over $8 million dollars. But that 10 cents from a referendum, which becomes a part of the district’s local funds would certainly grow over time. In 2010, Christina narrowly won a referendum. But it stands to reason some of those designated funds could go into this “discretionary” bucket in their budget. Which would certainly build up over time. If the DOE approved this in July 2010, which would have been Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, then that exclusion would not have to be approved every year. That portion of the tax payments sent in from residents would just keep building in that bucket. So Sokola’s allegation that Christina was willfully withholding payments from the charters by shoving money in this hidden bucket is blatantly false.
Now the big question is what started this runaway train. Yes, charters have lobbied for more money from districts for years. No one is arguing that. But they were not going after these discretionary amounts approved by the Secretary of Education. They wanted a share of the food services revenue the districts received, which is explicitly exempt from being a part of the payments made to charter schools since they have their own food programs which they get funds from at a federal, state, and local level. So how would Greg Meece know to look for this one specific thing and start a chain of events that led up to now? I’m working on that answer as we speak and I expect I will know the answer to that one in the next couple of weeks.
What leads me to believe Christina wasn’t “stuffing” money away into this secret account is also the reaction of one man to all of this. If the DOE sent out these notices about the exclusion items last May, Christina CFO Bob Silber would have been freaking out back then about it. If he knew the direction this was heading, he would have planned for it in their FY2017 budget, which he clearly did not. From many people I’ve talked to in the district, Silber didn’t start freaking out until the district received the DOE letter stating what the new exclusions were and when the charter bills started rolling in. Which leads me to think he wouldn’t have had to keep getting approval for the exclusions he put in this bucket based on a referendum allocation, approved by then Secretary Lowery, which would, over the years, increase this bucket.
In the meantime, I have to wonder why Sokola would specifically mention the year 2011 to this constituent he replied to. That is crucial to all of this under my theory. It makes Christina look really guilty. Why would Sokola make Christina appear to be guilty? I think we all know the answer to that one. Which confirms my suspicion about his involvement in all of this. His incessant talk in this email about legal action if Christina doesn’t comply and who can do what and when and where shows he is been looking into this for much longer than anyone else has. Sokola is not an attorney. He worked at DuPont for many years. Is he smart though? Yes. Devious? Hell yes. Would he be able to paint a picture showing Christina as a district that was denying money to charter schools, especially Newark Charter School, who was “denied” one million dollars this year if this “finding” doesn’t work out in their favor? He did in his email to the constituent.
I would go so far as to say there is an integrity issue with Sokola at this point. The ethics involved with this whole mess certainly lend a certain weight to Sokola and Meece being the brains behind all of this. Jaques wasn’t involved in this based on what he wrote in his email. But he made it a point to include what Sokola wrote as part of his email which lended considerable weight to perception of this issue. For that, I have to wonder what Jaques knew and when he knew it.
Is this the end of this? Probably not. Someone will come on here and say I have it backwards and I’m theorizing all of this. That’s certainly an option. But at the very least, this opens the door to careful inspection about what the Secretary of Education approves and if it is for exclusions in the local restricted budgets for districts based on referendum amounts, does that item need continuous approval from the Secretary. I don’t believe it does.