Delaware Courts Send WRONG Message With NO Jail Time For Those Who Steal School Money

WDEL announced Dr. Tennell Brewington, the former co-head of school of Family Foundations Academy, pled guilty to her role in theft of education funds at the New Castle County charter school.  Her whopping sentence: three years in prison but it was suspended.  NO jail time.  Oh, but she will have probation.  Cry me a damn river!  You better believe if that was you or I working in the private sector, we would be doing time!  But no, not in Delaware, the first to sign the Constitution and the last to follow it.  Sorry, this really pisses me off.

As if education funding isn’t jacked up enough, now our courts are saying it is okay to steal money meant for kids.  But I guess we need to add new buckets on Delaware Online Checkbook.  You know, things like foot massages and pedicures.  Give me a friggin’ break here!  I guess Audrey Erschen and Chuck Taylor from Providence Creek Academy will get lollipops for their misdeeds there.  Or Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover will get some more Disney knick-knacks for showing a little remorse.  And the guy from Indian River, Patrick Miller, can get a new boat.  But we will throw kids down the river for much lesser crimes.  This state is so damn corrupt it isn’t even funny.

And what the hell is up with Sean Moore?  That crap isn’t even funny anymore.  He is sitting back and laughing at all this.  These people are getting away with whatever the hell they want.  It appears it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s who you know.  Whose palms are getting greased?  What political favors are going around to avoid prison time for these clowns?  These are kids that are going without.  Our courts are saying they care more about the burden of incarcerating influential school “leaders” than sending an example that it isn’t right to steal education funds.

Some lady stole a ton of money from the Cape Henlopen boosters club for baseball or something like that.  Over $20,000.00.  I can see that example really working there Delaware!  That happened after all the charter thieves got caught.  I suspect there is a lot more of this going on.  Which is why nobody wants to REALLY audit these schools.  Providence Creek didn’t learn their lesson the first time.  They just got better at hiding it.  But like most secrets, they can’t stay buried forever.  But what does it matter?   The guilty will get off easy.  Can’t have all those thieves filling up courtroom space while the courtroom is already filled up with the school-to-prison pipeline kids.  Can’t have that!

Sean Moore From Family Foundations Academy STILL Hasn’t Been Sentenced, Plea Bargain Was Cut

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is “What is going on with Sean Moore from Family Foundations Academy?”  Today, I have some answers.  It turns out Mr. Moore is awaiting sentencing and struck a plea deal to have the charges reduced.  His next sentencing date is August 7th.  This date has changed a few times.  The other former Head of School from Family Foundations Academy, Dr. Tennell Brewington, actually had a court date today but I have not heard what happened at that one.  Once again, no word on Academy of Dover’s former financial scoundrel, Noel Rodriguez except that he was charged by the feds as well.  I also heard Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy is working on some sort of “payment plan” to pay the school back in lieu of charges.  Good luck with that one!  I guess it’s okay for these people to be walking the streets when they took student money from schools.

Below are the court docs that pertain to Moore’s case.  Other documents are sealed.  If the gentleman who called me last February could please call me again, I would love to continue that conversation.  Shoot me an email at kevino3670@yahoo.com.

CRIMINAL DOCKET

UNITED STATES VERSUS SEAN MOORE

PLEA AGREEMENT

Other Ex FFA Leader Tennell Brewington Arrested And Charged By State of Delaware

It sounds like Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is finally clearing up the lingering messes from the charter school financial scandals.  Dr. Tennell Brewington, the co-director of Family Foundations Academy, was arrested and charged on October 24th according to Jennifer Flueckiger with WMDT.

A Public Information Officer from the Delaware DOJ told 47ABC that Brewington was arrested on October 24, 2016, and charged with two counts of theft greater than $1500, two counts of unlawful use of a credit card greater than $1500, one count of unlawful use of a payment card less than $1500, and one count of official misconduct.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice dealt with a guilty plea from the other co-director of FFA, Sean Moore.  He faces a potential prison term of thirty years.  If I had to guess, Brewington’s charges from Delaware couldn’t come until she was cleared of any potential federal charges.  Or perhaps they were waiting on Moore to give information when he was arrested in another state.

There is no word yet on Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy.  State audit investigations found they too stole money from schools.  Justice may be slow at times, but it does happen eventually!

 

Academy Of Dover’s Do Or Die Moment Has To Happen NOW!

Academy of Dover is up for charter renewal this fall.  The Secretary of Education will announce his recommendation at the December State Board of Education meeting and then the State Board will vote on it.  The school has a gigantic hurdle to overcome: their enrollment.

Today, the Charter School Accountability Committee released the report from their initial  meeting with Academy of Dover on October 10th.

Mr. Blowman noted that the school’s enrollment has declined steadily over the years, from 308 students in school year 2013-14 to 247 students this school year.

That is a very serious drop!  Their approved charter enrollment is 300 students.  Charters can’t go below 80% of that, so their magic number is 240.  How bad is it?  To put things in perspective, they decreased their Kindergarten classes from 3 to 2 this year because of lower enrollment.  That is their bread and butter for future growth.

Ms. Johnson stated that if the current 2016-17 enrollment is projected out based on the trends to date, the school would be at 46% enrollment in four years, well below the required 80%. She added that this trend is occurring at every grade level versus one particular cohort. She reiterated that the school must provide a strong plan to mitigate this year’s reduced kindergarten enrollment and the low year-to-year retention rates.

Teacher retention was also an issue, but Academy of Dover is not immune to this issue.  Many charters and districts regularly suffer through this process each year.

This is my problem with charter school renewals.  So much of it is based on standardized test scores.  Far too much of it.  I can’t sit here and mock charters about low test scores while demonizing them in traditional schools.  This very huge flaw in education is universal.  For any school to feel they have to create a “Smarter Balanced Boot Camp” to drive up scores shows exactly what is wrong with the system to begin with.  This school already has a long day, from 7:45 to 3:30.  By keeping struggling students until 5pm and factoring in transportation, that is half of a student’s day.  Gone.

One thing I was very happy to see was a minor modification request submitted by Academy of Dover to reduce their number of school days from 200 to 180.  Citing a lot of absenteeism of students the first two weeks of school and the last two weeks, the school said they are listening to parents.  But of course the DOE has to pick that apart as well.

I believe the DOE needs to take a strong look at their Charter School Accountability Committee.  The non-voting members, at least two of them, had a lot to say during this meeting.  More than I’ve seen in a long time.  But when one of the voting members could potentially stand to gain if the school shut down… that I have a huge problem with.

The next Charter School Accountability Committee meeting, where the committee will give their final recommendation, will occur in late November or early December.  I think the school has come a long way since the Noel Rodriguez days.  I think they realize what their major mistakes were and have attempted to take swift action.  The addition of Gene Capers, a former Principal from Capital School District, as a curriculum director, was a stroke of genius.  Cheri Marshall has come a long way.  While she was thrust into a position of leadership based on another person’s wrong actions, she has grown in that role.  I saw a confidence in her at the renewal meeting last week that I didn’t see during their formal review a year and a half ago.  While this may seem to be too little too late for those who are no longer at the school, no human being can change the past but they can try to make a better future.

I gave this school a very hard time the past couple of years.  So much of that surrounded a central theme: transparency.  I think the combination of Rodriguez’ shenanigans, special education issues, and their start and stop time of the school year are playing a major part in their current enrollment woes.  My recommendation: approve their minor modification and let them stay open.  See what happens in the fall.  If their enrollment falls below 80%, the DOE will be forced to follow the law.  But give them a chance.  We have had far too many charter schools close that serve minority and low-income populations the past few years.  It is not good.  They have to get special education right, but they are not the only school in this state struggling with that.  We must, as a state, clearly define a better strategy for special education and make sure all schools are consistent with that path.

 

 

Former Family Foundations Academy Sean Moore FINALLY Gets Fed Charges!!!!

moorebrewington

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!

Academy Of Dover: IRS Issues, Mold, Legal Fees, & Settlement Issues

Back in March, I found something incredible in regards to how the Internal Revenue Service revoked the 501c3 corporation status of Academy in Dover back in 2012 for failing to file their 990 tax forms for three consecutive years.  It appears they did get this status reinstated with the IRS, but it could also shed some light on their current financial issues.

AoD501c3IRS

I won’t pretend to know who a corporation, even a charter school, goes about getting their 501c3 status reinstated by the IRS.  But they did, on 2/15/2016.  The article I posted in March did not show that date at the bottom the above picture.  But I was contacted by the school who told me they were able to work things out with the IRS.  I was not given the nature of the resolution, but something else I found last night could show possible expenses at the school.

For each year Academy of Dover did not file their tax returns, there could have been continuing IRS penalties.

IRS Tax Penalties For 501c3 Not Filing Returns

The IRS defines gross receipts as:

Gross receipts are the total amounts the organization received from all sources during its annual accounting period, without subtracting any costs or expenses.

So if Academy of Dover received over $1 million during any of the years they didn’t file (which they did), they could still be on the hook for a lot of fines.  If the IRS revoked their status in 2012, based on not filing for three consecutive years, and they just filed their 2014 tax return this year (which would be the tax year they got an extension on last year to file by this February), that means they are looking at a minimum of five tax returns that were not filed on time, if at all.  The only one they have posted on their website is the 2014 one.  Guidestar.org, a popular website that shows tax returns for non-profits, only shows the 2014 return as well.  So say they didn’t file a return for five years.  That could be a maximum of $50,000 for each year, totaling $250,000.00.  That could certainly throw a monkey wrench into their budget, especially since they already paid $500,000 over the past fifteen months as part of their settlement to Mosaica.  Adding to this is another settlement in the amount of $30,000 that was due by the end of the year as per their May board minutes.  The minutes did show that half of that would be covered by their insurance.  But with potential IRS penalties up to $250,000 depending on the number of actual years they didn’t file, a $50,000 payment to Mosaica, and another $15,000 settlement, this school sure does rack up the expenses that may not have been necessary if someone didn’t drop the ball somewhere.  Keep in mind, aside from what insurance paid ($15,000), all of this comes from your pocket Delaware taxpayers.

I am merely speculating on this.  They could have reached a deal with the IRS.  As well, they may not face penalties for the years between the revocation of their corporate status with the IRS and when they were reinstated.  Either way though, it is frightening this was never brought up during their various formal reviews, charter renewals, and other DOE “oversight”.  But it is something the board should openly discuss at their next board meeting.  If the Delaware DOE doesn’t address this during their charter renewal process this fall I would be shocked.  Charter schools are required by Delaware law to post their 990 IRS tax returns on their website, something many of them are guilty of not doing.  Better to get it out in the open now.  I don’t see anything in their board minutes aside from the board approving their latest tax return, which is also part of Delaware law for charter schools.

There is one matter which was sent to me anonymously by someone who did not want to be identified.  Apparently, when it rains up to half of the school can flood.  Their sewer gets backed up.  When this happens, students are sent to one side of the building.  Further complicating these issues is a matter of potential mold at the school.  I haven’t seen this addressed in any of the board meetings.  But if there is mold present, that could be very serious for anyone in the building especially if there are spores released into the air.

I have no doubt much of this could be traced back to Noel Rodriguez for some of the years he led the school.  The man was not competent to lead the school, much less do the right thing when it came to the school’s finances.  But he has been gone from the school for almost two years now.  The school could have very well spent a lot of that time trying to reach an agreement with the IRS, on top of the Mosaica issue.  But now is the time for the board and the school to open up about these matters.  It could very well save them from getting their charter revoked!

 

Academy On The Cliffs Of Dover Money Woes… Again…

I’m pretty sure a lot of readers won’t get my tongue in cheek title to this article unless you happen to like the Righteous Brothers. And not just the song from “Ghost”. What is going on at Academy of Dover now? In their most recent board minutes, from 6/23/16, there were several items that raised red flags.  To a casual observer, it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But knowing their history, it spoke volumes.

There are financial issues going on. There was discussion about the settlement with Mosaica, their former management company.  Last year, the school was ordered to pay on a judgment by the Superior Court for an amount over a million dollars.  Along with some academic issues, this caused them to go under formal review with the Delaware Department of Education.  The eventual outcome was probation until 6/30/16.

Academy of Dover reached a $650,000 settlement with Mosaica, of which $500,000 has been verified as paid. The remaining $150,000 due to Mosaica was broken up in three payments of $50,000 due by the end of July for the next three years.  A payment of $50,000, based on the original settlement, was due to Mosaica by 7/31/16.  At their June board meeting though, there was discussion about settling again with Mosaica.  There was talk about “the monetary issues dealing with the Mosaica issue”. The board voted on a motion regarding this “monetary issue” with a bizarre footnote that one of their board members, Dr. Charles Fletcher, had voted no on the Mosaica settlement.

Further adding to the financial mystery, the board announced they had a silent auction for “items sitting in the shed for two years” on June 16th.  They didn’t reveal how much revenue they received from this endeavor nor why it was held.  There was talk during a board meeting some months ago about trying to sell items former Principal Noel Rodriguez purchased illegally with school funds.  Rodriguez returned many of the items to the school.

While not completely verified, the school is having some staffing issues.  Rumor has it they got rid of their entire special education staff and will have about nine new teachers this year.  While they showed increases in their Smarter Balanced scores across the board, that doesn’t always translate into more students.  They appear to be down in enrollment but not to the level where their charter would be affected.  But they are up for charter renewal this fall, so expect to hear a lot more about this.

Back to their finances, what is interesting is their final FY2016 budget.  It appears the school overestimated on a lot of their expenditures.  As a result, they will have to base their FY2017 budget on those final expenditure amounts based on Delaware state law.  This could be causing some of their financial issues as well.

I got the above part wrong folks!  Sorry about that!

And then there is always the looming shadow about Noel Rodriguez.  Will Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn ever press charges against him?  As always, we wait… and wait… and wait…

 

As Matt Denn Goes On An Arrest & Indictment Spree In Other State Agencies, Charter Leaders Still Aren’t Facing The Music

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced seven arrests and indictments stemming from misuse of funds at the Department of Health and Social Services.  Meanwhile, several charter leaders and employees still haven’t been arrested for crimes involving school funds.  This has gone on way too long!  I’m not buying any more excuses on this.  We’ve all seen the audits.  We’ve seen the articles.  Why aren’t these charter leaders being charged for their crimes Matt Denn?  Who is protecting them?

In the article covering the arrests, Denn is quoted as saying:

This case is part of an intensified focus our office is trying to bring to fraud being committed against the state’s public benefit programs.

So public benefits demands an accounting, but school funds are okay?  In the case of Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover, which was the first of the charter audits coming out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office last year, nothing has happened.  Where is his arrest?  And Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy?  And the lady from Providence Creek?  And what about Sally Maldonado and the maintenance guy at Kuumba Academy?  And the board president at Delaware College Prep?  And what about what will come out from any future audits coming from the Auditor of Accounts?  I like Matt Denn, but it is beginning to look like a bit of a cover-up in terms of not charging these school “leaders”.  In terms of Maldonado, why is she allowed to serve on state committees and task forces concerning crucial education decisions but she gets no accountability for what amounts to a raise she gave herself with no board approval?

One of the individuals charged with this theft of funds from DHSS was Kamilah Laws, who was also a contractor with the Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  She was contracted with the DOE during the formal review process for the Delaware Met, which was ordered to shut down in mid-January of this year. Isn’t that interesting?  (this corrects an error I previously made in stating that Ms. Laws was on the board at Delaware Met.  She was not)

Theft is theft Matt Denn.  So I am openly and publicly challenging you to answer these questions: when will the charter leaders and employees who stole money from kids (cause that’s what it comes down to) be held accountable?  Will they?  Is there any reason why they wouldn’t?  Is Delaware law upheld only with certain state agencies?

Will Academy Of Dover Survive Charter Renewal?

The Academy of Dover is going through the very laborious charter renewal process with the Delaware Department of Education.  On April 30th, the DOE gave the school their renewal report and AoD had 16 days to respond.  The school had a rough couple years.  Between a very damaging state auditor report on their former head of school embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, low high-stakes testing scores, a very large settlement with a former management company, and compliance issues, they have had their hands full.  The former assistant principal now leads the school.  A former principal from Town Pointe Elementary School in Capital School District runs the curriculum now.  The board has shifted and received training in areas that caused some of the problems.  Will it be enough?

This charter renewal comes at an interesting time.  The 2014-2015 school year was the first year Smarter Balanced came into play.  As such, the scores from that year don’t really count, but the DOE is using the ratings from the Delaware School Success Framework as a substitute for their Academic Framework.  Let me say from the start, I feel bad for charter schools in the respect that the state assessment plays such a large part in anything going on with the DOE.  AoD has a large population of low-income and minority students who typically fare worse on these tests than other schools.

Other factors that could affect their renewal involve Noel Rodriguez, their local school district, and the scores from the 2015-2016 SBAC.  The former Head of School, Noel Rodriguez, will face charges at some point.  I know of at least one other Delaware charter where the Attorney General’s office recently issued subpoenas about their own similar issues.  Yet another Delaware charter had their board file for insurance claims due to embezzlement at their own school from former leaders.  So something is coming which will put the school in the spotlight when Rodriguez faces charges.  However, this issue already came up in their 2015 formal review and they were not shut down for it then so the DOE should not put them under the same scrutiny twice.

Capital School District, under the new leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, is looking at their own district with their Strategic Plan.  What comes out of that, to improve the district, could affect AoD in the long run in terms of enrollment.  But it should have no bearing on their renewal process.

The scores from the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment for the school will not play into their academic framework since it is not a part of the renewal report, but the impression could taint the process.  Once again, I will stress my opinion these should not even factor into their charter renewal, but the DOE and I do not agree on this point.

I will admit I have softened my stance on Delaware charter schools a bit.  My own experience with them tainted my view a bit.  I still don’t agree with some of their very discriminatory practices up in Wilmington and the only one in Sussex County.  But I believe they are just as much a victim as traditional school districts are with the DOE in terms of very bad regulations, mandates, and accountability.  Academy of Dover and I had a frosty relationship in the past, but that has warmed up a bit in recent months.  Many of the complaints against most charter schools are a result of politics and tainted legislation by people in Dover who should really know better.   I believe the Delaware Charter Schools Network adds immensely to the perceptions against charters.  With that caveat, Academy of Dover has a former State Representative on their board who does carry a bit of clout in Kent County so politics can play a part to help the school.

Many of the issues with Academy of Dover are well-known by the DOE and have come up before in formal reviews.  There really aren’t any new complaints which suggests the school has fixed many of the issues since Noel Rodriguez left.  No school is perfect, but Academy of Dover seems to have turned a lot around in the past year and a half.  Rodriguez controlled the school and left a considerable amount of damage in his wake.

My one concern in the below response from the school is this 11 week Smarter Balanced Boot Camp after school for struggling students.  In this era of high-stakes accountability, schools are under the gun for kids to do well on these tests.  But they can go overboard with this effort.  Calling anything a boot camp with education is a bad idea in my opinion.  It suggests a dire need for these kids to do well on these tests regardless of the cost.  The sooner we can get schools to stop giving in to this very bad proficiency environment, the better things will be in the long run.  It gives the Delaware DOE all the power.  But I also don’t run a school with that kind of pressure thrust upon me so it is easy for me to say that.

I know the school had special education issues in the past, but we won’t know until June how they may have improved.  That is when the DOE issues their special education compliance annual reports.  However, those are usually about three years behind and would reflect the height of the Noel Rodriguez era so that should be taken into consideration as well.  Special education is a hot mess in Delaware overall.  There seems to be a mass amount of confusion between Response to Intervention and true special education.  This is an ongoing issue that will only get worse if we stay in this high-stakes accountability environment.

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Delaware Secretary of Education will issue his final recommendation to the State Board of Education at their December 15th board meeting where they will vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.

Below is the charter renewal report from the Delaware DOE and Academy of Dover’s response:

 

 

Paging Matt Denn… Should Ex Charter Leaders Alleged To Have Abused Funds Have “Finance Professional” On Their Linkedin Account?

CharterFraud

Not long ago, Sean Moore was at the top of the world.  He was a co-Head of School at Family Foundations Academy.  Together with Dr. Tennell Brewington they ran a successful school.  To the outside world, the school was doing well.  It wasn’t at the top of the heap, but it wasn’t at the bottom either.  In the Fall of 2014, everything changed when FFA had their charter renewal.  Everything came out: the parent complaints, the conflicts of interest between the school leaders and members of the board, and of course, the financial abuse.

A little over a year later, and Sean Moore has the term “finance professional” on his Linkedin account.  According to the Auditor of Account’s report, released over a month ago, Moore and Brewington still haven’t paid back all the funds they owe the school.  But Moore was able to have enough funds to start his own business, Planet Beach Contempo Spas.  He is listed as the franchise owner.  Aside from his time at FFA, from July 2008-January 2015, most of Moore’s experience has been in business.  In fact, twenty years ago he was an auditor himself!

With all that business experience for twelve years prior to FFA, why would he risk it all by embezzling funds from a charter school?  This is just a guess, but I would surmise he was doing it for so long without getting caught he most likely thought he never would be.  Like many citizens in Delaware, I am wondering when some type of charges will be announced against Moore and the other charter embezzlers.  Academy of Dover’s Ex Leader Noel Rodriguez, Brewington, Moore, and just added to the list last week, Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy.  And we haven’t heard anything about those with lower offenses but still considered to be abuse of funds by the State Auditor’s office: Sally Maldonado with Kuumba Academy and the executive director and board president at Delaware College Prep (who will be shutting down at the end of the school year as Red Clay’s board did not renew their charter in December).

I find it ironic Moore is praising his business acumen and starting his own business.  I’ve said this a million times, but if it was the average citizen, we would be in jail by now…

15 Who Made An Impact On 2015: The Charter Thieves

The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez.  The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover.  Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases.  And that was just the verified amount.  Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware.  That is some serious coin!

Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools.  *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher.  Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there.  Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet.  Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.

Many are wondering why the three are not in jail.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter.  This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators.  The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques.  When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse.  Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools.  In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds.  While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many.  Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!

*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up.  Apologies for the error!

So Which School Did Newark Charter Want To Join Their “Coalition”?

On Friday night, I put up a post about the Newark Charter School Coalition and how they met with an Assistant at a charter South of the Canal resulting in the firing of said employee.  As I wrote the other night, the principal was not privy to this conversation and was none too pleased when she found out about it.  Oh wait, I didn’t say she, did I?  So which charter was it?  There aren’t too many in Kent and Sussex. Continue reading

Del. State News Article: Academy of Dover’s Noel Rodriguez Going To Attorney General’s Office

“The Auditor’s office was concerned by the length of time the alleged financial mismanagement continued while under the oversight of the Board of Directors, Department of Education, independent auditors, Innovative Schools, the Charter School Accountability Committee, and Division of Accounting.”

According to an article by Craig Anderson with the Delaware State News, the State Auditor’s office in Delaware sent their audit report on Academy of Dover to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office.  What the article had, which I haven’t seen before, is this:

Also, the Auditor’s office alleged, “Given the magnitude of the problem at (Academy of Dover), there may well have been additional exceptions prior to July 2011.”

Once again, this article states the State Auditor’s office receive an anonymous tip on their fraud hotline regarding ex-principal Noel Rodriguez’ rampant and unauthorized spending.  Rodriguez is trying to find a seat on a non-profit board, according to Anderson.  A few sources have told me Rodriguez was working at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Middletown, DE until he was let go once the news came out about the allegations leveled against him in the Auditor’s report.

Many have wondered why Rodriguez is being made an example of while they dynamic duo from Family Foundations Academy, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, got a get out of jail free card.  According to a letter to the DOE, Moore and Brewington settled with the school and hints the attorney general’s office was involved in this financial settlement after they pilfered over $90,000 from that charter school.  But one thing to consider is the State Auditor has not officially released a report on Family Foundations Academy yet.  They started an investigation into Academy of Dover in August, 2014, and their report came out last month.  So if it takes roughly ten months, we might see a report on Family Foundations Academy by September.  The $90,000 figure was based on a forensic audit done by Auphsite Consulting, but I have a suspicion the State Auditor will discover a much higher amount of fraud by Moore and Brewington.

As for Rodriguez, it will be interesting to see what his next move will be.  Will he attempt to offer a plea bargain?  If there were others involved in criminal financial mischief at the school, I could see Rodriguez pointing the finger.  The next few months should be interesting for all seven of the charter schools under some type of investigation or review with the State Auditor’s office.  I am very curious what kind of financial issues are under investigation with Providence Creek Academy…

Delaware Attorney General Office Investigating Ex-Principal Noel Rodriguez of Academy of Dover

According to an article on WBOC’s website, former Academy of Dover Principal Noel Rodriguez is being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust division of the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  This office, which opened in January when Attorney General Matt Denn took office, also investigated the former heads of school at Family Foundations Academy, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, but no charges were filed in that case.

The heat is on for charter schools after this report came out.  With seven charters under investigation by the State Auditor, Tom Wagner, you can be sure legislators will be pushing for radical change.  One of them, State Rep. Kim Williams, finally got her House Bill 186 released from the House Education Committee after Chair Earl Jaques sat on it for a week.  The bill goes to the House for a full vote, but it is not on any agenda yet.  Furthermore, even if it passes the House, it would go to the Senate Education Committee, which probably won’t convene again until January 2016 when the legislators take their 6 month hiatus.

Academy of Dover State Audit Report Released! State Board of Education & Murphy Should Revoke Their Charter!!!

“A clear and consistent message is needed from all state agencies about fiscal accountability over all charter school funds including local funds.”

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office released their report on Academy of Dover, and it is much worse than anyone thought.  Here are the highlights:

-Academy of Dover has no contract with their financial management organization, Innovative Schools, which could set up another legal situation for them…

-For three years, Rodriguez used $127,866 in school funds for personal use, the state was unable to determine if ANOTHER $129,458 was for school or personal use…

-The school had a sexual harassment lawsuit in which they settled, costing the school out-of-pocket over $36,000 in legal fees and over $97,000 in insurance funds.  This was due to Noel Rodriguez, the former principal…

-Academy of Dover kept allowing Rodriguez to use his cell phone until March 2015 even though he resigned in October 2014, added an additional $1,696 in charges…

-Academy of Dover’s average class size is 19 to 1, drastically lower than most traditional school districts, but the average student to adult ratio is 10 to 1…

-In trying to seek guidance on the overall purpose of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the organization did not respond to that request…

-During the three year spending spree, there was no oversight from any of the following organizations: Academy of Dover, their board, DOE, Charter School Accountability Committee, Division of Accounting, independent auditors or Innovative Schools…

-Rodriguez had a “special relationship”, according to the below report, with a music teacher. As well, he treated employees to Happy Hour numerous times, reimbursed them for alcohol purchases, and gave bonuses to teachers with NO board approval…

“Charter schools consistently receive instruction from DOE, Division of Accounting (DOA), and OMB that they may use their local funds as they deem appropriate, which is inconsistent with laws and regulations.”

The below document, produced by Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner, is a sickening and disgusting look at over three years of taxpayer funds going towards one man’s addiction to material items.  We know from last week’s House Education Committee meeting, seven Delaware charter schools are under review by the State Auditor.  It is time to wake up Delaware, and change this system of fraud and abuse.  Starting with the DOE, because based on what I’m seeing in this report, Academy of Dover needs to be shut down.  They had zero oversight over Rodriguez for over three years.  And they continued to give him special privileges with a cell phone after he “resigned”.  Their probation needs to be revoked and Rodriguez should be arrested for openly violating state law and regulation!

Why do we continue to allow organizations like the Delaware Charter Schools Network have any say on legislation that would protect our students and taxpayers from this sort of waste and abuse, but they refuse to answer questions about their very purpose to a state auditor’s office?

Academy of Dover Confirms Teacher Struck Student And Did Not Call The Police or Attorney General Office

Today at the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting at the Delaware Department of Education, Academy of Dover confirmed the “incident” alluded to in the letter the DOE sent them last week. A teacher struck a student but no details were given about the nature of the assault. Academy of Dover Head of School Cheri Marshall did state the teacher was immediately suspended without pay, and then terminated with board approval. But then it was said the teacher resigned, so the details are a little fuzzy. This is the same school that insisted former Head of School Noel Rodriguez “resigned”, but it was confirmed today by board member Nancy Wagner that Rodriguez was physically removed from the building. This completely contradicts Marshall’s firm “he resigned” to me when I called the school for confirmation on Rodriguez’s termination last fall. I guess when an employee is terminated at the school, the official stance is “they resigned”.

Marshall did say it was a student they had issues with all year long and numerous calls were made to the child’s mother. The mother was immediately called when the incident happened. The mother declined to press charges. However, there was no mention by Marshall or any member of the board about contacting either the police or the Attorney General’s office to report the crime. It is required by Delaware state law to report all incidents of this nature. When asked again if there was any other part of this investigation, Marshall said no. The DOE informed Academy of Dover the mother contacted them about the incident.

In regards to Noel Rodriguez, it was confirmed by Wagner that Rodriguez and several staff members had tumultuous encounters. But this did not come out until after Rodriguez left, as Wagner stated staff were too scared to come to the board. The suspicious purchase card transactions were described as a very stealth-like operation by Rodriguez in setting up different accounts. The board were not even aware of these many purchases until last fall when their annual auditor notified them of several red flags coming up. Wagner also reported the former board members all had very close ties with Rodriguez, much like Family Foundations Academy’s former board was set up during the Moore/Brewington era.

The Mosaica $2 million judgment came up, and the school stated they were not ignoring the judgment and tried for many years to work things out with Mosaica. It surprised the school when the court overruled on a previous ruling and the judgment was enforced last month. The judge involved in that ruling will be hearing arguments against his ruling on June 22nd. The State Board of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make their decision on June 18th. Academy of Dover’s attorney did state an agreement could be worked out between the two parties prior to that court date, but nothing is firm or in writing. When asked how long the new court ruling could take, their attorney said it could be the same day or it could take weeks.

In my opinion, even with all the changes the board may have made, it is obvious there were and continue to be serious issues with the school’s ability to effectively educate its 300 students. With financial judgments and past mismanagement, employee theft of state funds, a teacher striking a student, and the board’s inability to realize what is going on until after the fact, I fear for the students at this school. If I were their parents, I know what my choice would be. A board should be more aware of what is going on at a school, and the fact the teachers and staff were afraid of the head of school speaks volumes about the board’s decision making ability.

Ex-Academy of Dover Head Noel Rodriguez Has Potential Personal Purchases On Full Display

The Delaware Department of Education is definitely being very transparent when it comes to Academy of Dover. So much so that they are actually posting charge statements from various vendors.  I would imagine at this point the Charter School Office is under a lot of scrutiny in regards to their oversight of charter schools.  I do believe they serve a purpose, but I just wish they would catch this stuff sooner.

On April 30, Academy of Dover’s board of directors submitted a set of documents to the Department of Education. These documents included copies of statements for credit cards and accounts held by the school since the 2011-12 school year, including accounts with Home Depot, Lowes, Staples, and Sam’s Club. The Charter School Office has identified a set of statements documenting purchases that may have been made by the former school leader for personal use. Those statements have been added to the record.

•Selection of Documents Submitted
◦Home Depot
◦JP Morgan
◦Lowes
◦Sam’s Club
◦Staples

You can actually view the statements on this DOE website.  Meanwhile, their board is having an emergency board meeting tonight.  And tomorrow is the big day with the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  I’m sure there will be fireworks at that one!  In the meantime, I pray parents are able to find solace with this school.  Because at the end of the day, it should be about the students at the school, not the adults who misbehave.

Academy of Dover’s Formal Review Documents & Timeline

There are two things that are officially confirmed with this letter.  Someone at the school was using purchase cards unethically since July of 2012.  The second thing is the lawsuit between Academy of Dover and Mosaica is finally talked about by the Delaware DOE.

Academy of Dover In Serious Trouble Over Noel Rodriguez’ P-Card Splurges & The Schools $2 Million Dollar+ Judgment

Academy of Dover was placed on Formal Review by the Delaware State Board of Education last Thursday, April 16th.  According to the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee, the reasons for the request were in regards to potential financial mismanagement and academic performance.  It was added the school is in the process of ongoing litigation, which they would not reveal in the meeting nor in a group with the media afterwards what this litigation was in regards to.  However, after some digging, I have found out the reason why.

But first, let’s take a look at the transcription from the State Board of Education’s decision last week: Continue reading

Updated: Academy of Dover Principal Noel Rodriguez “Resigned” @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #eduDE

Update, 10/9/14: I spoke with the acting principal, Cheri Marshall, yesterday and she informed me that Noel Rodriguez resigned.  No other official response was given by Marshall.  There is innuendo and allegations around the internet, but nothing official has come out at this time from Academy of Dover or the Delaware Department of Education in regards to these rumors.  Marshall served as the assistant principal prior to Rodriguez’ departure.

A few weeks ago, staff at Academy of Dover were summoned to an emergency meeting and were told Principal Noel Rodriguez was gone.  The assistant principal, Cheri Marshall, is the acting principal.  Nobody knows the details, but apparently Noel Rodriguez has been fired from his position as Principal of Academy of Dover.  Rodriguez has been plagued with controversy during his tenure at the Dover charter school.  Issues with transparency, financial issues, teacher turnaround, special education and a school that Rodriguez ruled like a dictator.  Nobody is talking about him, and it is like he never existed at the school.

In an earlier article today, it was announced Academy of Dover had received the Blue Ribbon award from the US DOE for their achievement in closing proficiency gaps, but when you look at the data on their proficiency, it is obvious there have been a huge amount of issues with the scores at Academy of Dover.  Could this have had something to do with Rodriguez’ ouster?  Last week ALL the Delaware charters were called to a non-public, secretive emergency meeting.  Could Academy of Dover’s proficiency scores been a topic?  Kilroy reported the US DOE was not happy about something with the Delaware charters in regards to their academic framework.  Nobody is talking yet, but if and when the news comes out, it will be just another example of a Delaware charter school leader thinking they can do what they want.