Dr. Nick Manolakos, the long-time Headmaster of Odyssey Charter School is no longer serving in that capacity. What he does next may not be what many folks expected to happen. Continue reading “Nick Manolakos’ Journey At Odyssey Comes To An End. What Is His Next Move?”
The Greek-themed Delaware charter school, Odyssey, sent out a letter to parents in their area advising them they are still accepting students. As most involved in Delaware education know, schools get their funding based on the September 30th student count. Odyssey is trying to beef up those numbers to get more money.
This is a bad idea in very bad taste. The window for school choice in Delaware closes in mid-January. As in eight months ago. While charters are certainly free to accept students after those dates if they have room, actively
soliciting students after the school year has already started is lousy judgment. It is poaching, pure and simple. It is money driven, not student driven. But what many forget is that some charters tend to kick out high-risk students after September 30th. And guess what? Some keep the funding they received.
On DSEA President Mike Matthews Facebook page, he brought this up yesterday. While he didn’t name the school, State Rep. Kim Williams said she is aware of it and did notify the Delaware Dept. of Education. Will the charter-friendly DOE actually address the situation or just play along to go along?
As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with actual charter schools and the reason for their existence. But I do take issue with situations like this, when profit and money result in grown-ups making poor decisions. There are good charters out there but unfortunately when certain charters keep coming up in events like this it is hard to not view the charter problem as a whole. Whether it is discrimination, poor special education, cherry-picking students, or using lobbying power to get more money at the expense of districts, the Delaware tends to side with the charters. Even worse, they tend to turn a blind eye to recurring issues such as the ongoing financial cesspool that is Providence Creek Academy, the enrollment preferences at Charter School of Wilmington, or the discrimination factory we call Newark Charter School. Odyssey should not be attempting to get students from districts this far into the school year.
Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting put the hammer down on Odyssey or will she allow this poaching journey to continue? And what is your take on this bad education practice?
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
Yes, a group of Delaware charters are trying to strike gold over the charter funding issue. Which charters? Newark Charter School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, EastSide Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, First State Montessori Academy, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Gateway Charter School, Great Oaks, Kuumba Academy, MOT Charter School, Odyssey Charter School, Providence Creek Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School. As well, there are a handful of parents suing on behalf of their minor children. Below are the complaints filed against Christina and the Delaware DOE. There is also a motion to expedite proceedings. I have not had time to fully read these, but I will after the ESSA Discussion Group meeting tonight. This is going to turn Delaware education on its ear!
Yes, you heard it right. The Olympics are coming to Delaware. Or, to be more specific, to Barley Mill Plaza! Odyssey Charter School, in celebration of their 10th Anniversary, is bringing the Olympic Torch to Delaware. I just have one question though… If this is to benefit Odyssey Charter School, why are folks asked to make checks out to the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and not directly to Odyssey Charter School? Does that mean the schools get all the money from these sponsorships for their 5k Run/Walk on September 24th? Awesome! But when I went to the website included in the press release (seen below) to register, it doesn’t give an online option to register. You can only mail checks to the AHEPA Wilmington Chapter. Wow! I can’t wait to see how much revenue they raise for the school!
The Board of Directors at Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington, DE clearly does not benefit from having their members publicly elected. Especially if you are a woman. Like something taken out of the late 19th Century, Odyssey seems to be very comfortable with discussing the downplaying of females on their board. There are nine members on Odyssey’s board but five are made of representation from the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Yes, they have the word Progressive in their title. But you wouldn’t know it based on the below conversation at their May 2016 board meeting. I really can’t wait to hear charter board meetings when the audio recording law takes effect at the start of this school year!
But the kicker is that this board can never be dominated by women. Why? Because of “The Brotherhood”…
How can you call yourself progressive but limit the role of women in a governing body? Has this board forgotten about civil rights and equality? Did they know very important rules passed in this country regarding women’s rights? It isn’t just women that are reduced on this board. We see a very clear disliking of their Parent Teacher Organization as well. Guess how many women joined their board the next month? A big fat zero! I’m not sure what their male: female ratio is on their board now. I know they had 3 out of 9 women on the board prior to this vote. I can’t wait to hear Odyssey’s board meetings. I’m assuming they don’t pay their bills with Susan B. Anthony coins…
The Delaware Department of Education continues their self-righteous Rodel led agendas. In their latest corporate education reform press release, Godowsky and the gang announced the nineteen members of the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program kicking off this year. I find it more than a coincidence that most of the districts who got these positions are very tight with the “Leader In Me” program. The only districts selected were Capital and Appoquinimink. Three charters are joining the bandwagon which are MOT, Kuumba Academy and Odyssey.
At their April board meeting, the Capital Board of Education tentatively approved going forward with this program. But they had deep concerns about setting up competitions in schools. They cited the very controversial Delaware Talent Co-op Program from a few years ago and how it caused many problems among teachers. As well, the board was concerned with the amount of time the selected Teacher Leaders would spend out of the classroom and how additional substitute teachers would need to take their place. The principals of these schools were very enthusiastic about the program. Both are “focus” schools, one of the latest “turnaround” labels thrown at schools over low state assessment scores. In a sense, I don’t blame these principals for doing what they can to get their schools out of these false labels put on them by the Delaware DOE. If you go to the Capital board audio recording from their April 20th board meeting, click on the second audio recording link, and the discussion begins around the 1:22:03 mark. When asked how much the program would cost, Superintendent Dan Shelton mentioned the stipend teachers would get but also that the training would take up the bulk of the costs. A figure of $50,000 was thrown around.
The only schools in Capital who are instituting this pilot program are Towne Point and East Dover Elementary. Towne Point is a huge advocate of the “Leader In Me” program. Fairview Elementary in Capital also has this program. Appoquinimink School District brought Leader In Me to Delaware. Payments for this program are made to a company called Franklin Covey. Many of the teachers at Towne Point who advocate for this program are also members of this Teacher Leader pilot program. One of them is also very involved with the Rodel Teacher Council. I have no doubt this teacher is an excellent teacher, but when you see one name associated with so many things I can not support, it is hard to draw the line between saying nothing and pointing it out. I fully welcome any discussion with this teacher about anything written in this article, especially the part I write about later on.
The Delaware General Assembly passed their budget bill in late June with an appropriation of $800,000 in state funds going to the recipient districts and charters towards the Teacher Leader program.
What I don’t understand is how the DOE can move forward with a program that is contingent on approval in the State Budget. The funds for this state grant weren’t approved until late June. But here we have the DOE sending out invitations to apply after Spring Break. For Capital school district, students came back after Spring Break on April 4th. They gave schools a very short time to apply for this program, a matter of 25 days. What was the insane rush behind this? I will touch on this later, but for now check out the press release from Alison May at the DOE:
First teacher leaders announced
Nineteen teachers have been selected to serve as teacher leaders in a pilot program launching this school year. The program is among the first of its kind in the nation to take place at the state level.
Providing this kind of teacher leadership opportunity was among the recommendations of the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers. During his administration, Governor Jack Markell has championed the creation of a compensation system that makes Delaware educator salaries more competitive with neighboring states and rewards teachers for helping their peers to best support our students.
“Through this pilot, teacher leaders are provided a career pathway that both rewards educators for excellence and provides opportunities in formal leadership positions,” said Markell, who recommended funding for the pilot in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget that was approved by the General Assembly on June 30. “Through these roles, teacher leaders will use their skills to support schools where they need it most: helping other educators develop their practices and better prepare Delaware’s students for college and careers —all while allowing teacher leaders to maintain a foot in the classroom and earn additional compensation without needing to take on administrative roles.”
The Governor joined Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky today at Appoquinimink High School in Middletown to participate with members of the pilot in a discussion about the coming year.
The five teacher leader roles to launch this year will support educators in the following areas:
· Instructional practice leads will improve the instructional practice of fellow educators using a variety of high-impact support strategies focused on frequent, targeted feedback in educators’ development areas.
· Digital content leads will help educators build their instructional technology knowledge so more students have access to technology that helps improve their academic outcomes.
· Instructional strategy leads will introduce new instructional strategies into schools to help educators meet their learning needs and help schools meet their academic goals.
· Community partnership leads will help students gain access to services designed to improve their physical and mental health, giving them a greater chance at academic success.
· Instructional culture leads will help schools build a philosophy around culture, discipline and culturally responsive teaching.
Schools across Delaware were invited to participate in the teacher leader pilot. A nine-member committee representing educators, administrators and external partners selected eight schools and those schools created selection committees that designed a rigorous, multi-stage process to meet their schools’ needs and choose the 19 teacher leaders.
Each school is identifying a set of goals that teacher leaders will work toward. This summer, teacher leaders and school leaders came together to meet other pilot participants, plan pilot implementation for their schools, and learn more about teacher leadership to ensure a successful launch this fall.
“Being a novice teacher can be overwhelming at first, especially when it comes to lesson planning and classroom management. That’s why we want to use this new position to target support for our novice teachers in these areas,” said Kirsten Belair, who will work as an instructional practice lead at Odyssey Charter School.
The 2016-17 teacher leaders are:
· Amanda Alexander, instructional culture, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Colleen Barrett, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Chelsea Baxter, instructional culture, Kuumba Academy (Charter)
· Kirsten Belair, instructional practice, Odyssey Charter School (Charter)
· Lindsay Bouvy, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Michelle Duke, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Carrie Howe, community partnerships, MOT Charter School (Charter)
· Melanie Fauvelle, digital content, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Michele Johnson, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Kris King, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)
· Heather Patricco, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)
· Heather Mann, instructional practice, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
· Shana Noll, instructional practice, MOT Charter School (Charter)
· Crystal Samuels, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Katharine Sawyer, instructional practice, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Krista Seifert, instructional culture, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
· John Tanner, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Kady Taylor, instructional strategy (K-8 reading), Kuumba Academy (Charter)
· Tamara Walker, instructional strategy (K-8 math), Kuumba Academy (Charter)
How does a member of the Selection Committee manage to get selected for this program? Can you answer that for me Michele Johnson? Why do I constantly see the names of the aforementioned Michele Johnson, Robyn Howton and Jennifer Nauman attached to so much Rodel/Vision stuff and now this selection committee? Under whose authority did you allow schools to apply for this before any decision was made granting the authority by legislative decree to a public committee or before the funds were even appropriated for this program? Can you answer that for me Angeline Rivello? Or do you answer to Donna Johnson? Because there is a crystal clear reason she was cc’ed on this email. Who chose the selection committee for a program that, once again, wasn’t even approved? Your email said there was a chance to get a “wide diversity” of schools but we have only one Kent Country district, one New Castle County district, and three New Castle charters. How did that work out? What was the rubric for scoring applications? How many applications were received? Did the selection committee read every single application or what it divvied up among the selection committee?
I think it is past time the DOE fessed up on their sneakiness and manipulation. Secretary Godowsky PROMISED a greater degree of transparency and open communication coming from this Department, and all I see are more lies, secret agendas, emails to select individuals with no public awareness, funds committed to things before they are even approved, focus groups or special meetings with no public notice, no minutes provided for certain things, or even links to certain groups (hello Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition). Meanwhile, you allow charters and districts to allocate money wherever they want with no true oversight, browbeat the auditor’s office until a good woman is put on leave while charters get away with financial murder, manipulate the ESSA regulatory process by claiming to have true stakeholder input when it is really just school administrators and lobbyists, force a school report card scheme on our schools without any regulatory authority to impose it, and have our students take a test that judges everything and the students don’t even take the test. Secretary Godowsky, I don’t care what anyone says, you are a HORRIBLE Secretary of Education. This kind of crap makes even Mark Murphy look okay in comparison. The rot in YOUR Department still exists, more than ever. This happened under YOUR watch. I hope the pieces of silver from Rodel and Markell were worth it…
Angeline Rivello, when I announced Chris Ruszkowski was leaving the DOE, a lot of teachers in this state reached out to me and they expressed how they wanted to give you a chance and hoped the stink from the TLEU would disappear. It is stronger then ever.
Donna Johnson, this just once again proves what I have always known: you don’t believe in transparency and you are well aware of everything that goes on in the Townsend Building. Does your beloved State Board know what you know? How the hell are you even still employed there? All of you are liars, plain and simple. There is no other justification for your actions.
Governor Markell, you tricked us again. You are a mastermind at turning something that looks good on the surface into a tangled web of lies and deception. If I had my way, I would impeach you even though you have less than five months in office.
If those in Delaware thought maybe I would temper things down eventually, my commitment to exposure in this state has NEVER been stronger. Every single day I see the corruption and fraud going on in our state. This isn’t a democracy. We have the most corrupt and vile state government in the country. None of this is about our kids. It is about power, position, and money. You all need to start coming clean before I find out about it. Because if you think only a few Delaware teachers and parents read this blog, you are VERY wrong. You have no idea, no one does, who is watching all of you. Recording every single thing I come out with, just building a very large and thick file.
And I do have a final item to throw out there. How can three contracts, which I can only assume may play into the total of $800,000 for Section 362is program which answers some of my questions for the funds involved in this sham, be signed on the following dates: 4/19/16, 4/21/16, 4/26/16, 5/2/16, 5/4/16, 5/10/16, 5/11/16, and 5/23/16? If these are for this program, and the General Assembly had not approved the funds for this program, how can you have contracts starting before the Joint Finance Committee even released their budget? Or should I assume the Rodel Foundation will be the one training these teacher leaders? With funds from the Vision Coalition? Or should I say Schools That Lead? Because when I look up Schools That Lead’s IRS 990 tax forms, it comes up with 990s for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Since Schools That Lead wasn’t really around then, care to take a guess what company comes up? The Vision Network. And if this description of their purpose doesn’t fit the bill for this Teacher Leader Pilot, I don’t know what does:
When I first started digging into education stuff in Delaware, I remember reading an article on Kilroy’s where he wrote about talking with Jack Markell in 2008. Kilroy wanted to support him, and he asked Markell flat-out if he was going to stop the spread of Rodel into Delaware education to which Markell said he would. Jack lied Kilroy. He lied to all of us. Rodel runs the education show in Delaware. They have for 12 years. Every single decision made in Delaware education has been at the behest of the Rodel Foundation since Jack Markell took office. Together with their order-takers at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Christina Cultural Arts Center, Governor Markell’s office, and the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, they have single-handedly turned Delaware education into a billion dollar corporation. And our kids lose more and more every single day. Because their minions have infiltrated every charter, every district, every state agency, and even our General Assembly. We gave them this power. Now, it is time to take it all back.
The Delaware accounting system is a train wreck of epic proportions. I found 100% proof funds were switched around that benefit certain schools. We have one charter school that can’t even follow proper accounting procedures and another charter school that seems to think Student Body Activities are their personal playground.
For something like this chart, I would expect to see school districts firmly in the lead, but we don’t see that at all. Cape Henlopen is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Delaware school districts. They get a lot of money from school taxes and the residents in those areas don’t seem to mind paying them. But Newark Charter School, with $445,000 in student body activities? That is an excessively high amount. For a charter school with a student population of less than 14% of the neighboring Christina School District, they spend 17 times more on activities for students than Christina. Four districts and one charter don’t even have anything coded as “Student Body Activity” with the state: Caesar Rodney, Colonial, Delmar, Sussex Tech, and Sussex Academy. Do they not have any student body activities or do they just put it somewhere else in the Rubik’s Cube called the Delaware Financial System (DFS)?
So how does this even work? Are districts and charters paying out for field trips and fun activities and then reimbursing those costs as revenue generated from parents paying for them? Are these schools paying for them without collecting any money from students? Or is it a combination of both?
Do these activities affect the bottom line for the per student costs for each district and charter school?
Rocketing to number one with $108,000 in student body activity costs based on their number of students is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPSS). That sure is a lot of field trips! We know they bought a fire truck for their students last winter, but those funds were generated from a collection by students. So what accounts for such a high amount based on their student population? I went on Delaware Online Checkbook and found that DAPPS is coding all their student transportation costs under student body activity. So that throws their numbers way off! We can clearly see the transportation costs as part of this category, with an amount totaling $84,236. Had they coded this correctly, under student transportation, their costs for student body activity would have been a little over $23,000.
For Newark Charter School’s student body activity expenses on Delaware Online Checkbook, there is no explanation for their very high amounts. While we do see transportation costs, they are not as high as DAPSS. They appear to be transportation costs associated with field trips. What is even more bizarre are the many payments going to certain individuals. As if they are parents or teachers. We see amounts going out to American Airlines for 26 purchases of what I assume to be airline tickets at $818 each and one for $875 totaling over $21,000 on 2/5/16 which were bought with the state procurement card on 1/15/16. I reviewed NCS board minutes and found no mention of any big field trips for students taking place that would warrant such high airline ticket prices. The state’s accounting manual is explicit that no state employee can purchase first class airline tickets. So where was this trip to that cost $818 for each ticket?
Cape Henlopen has an obscene amount of p-card activity associated with student body activities under student body activity. Like Newark Charter School, I see a lot of names associated with these charges.
Where this gets incredibly odd is when I went to look at examples of student body activity for different school districts and charters. A Delaware citizen submitted a FOIA request to the state and received the FOIA in early July. All of this citizen’s information was run by the Department of Finance on 7/2/16 for every single district and charter school’s expenses for Fiscal Year 2016. June 30th was the end of the fiscal year. All the charts and graphs I have made to date have been based on those figures. But upon review, amounts are changing in the state accounting system. The total expenditures for each district and charter are the same, but funds are moving around in the coding system. As an example, Odyssey Charter School showed over $35,000 in student body activity costs. But when I look now on Delaware Online Checkbook, the amount is over $153,000. This trend occurred with many districts and charters, some for nominal amounts and some for rather considerable amounts. And this is just under student body activity expenses.
In looking at Odyssey, it became clear something was up, so I was able to actually find the exact amount that was shifted over to student body activity.
In the above picture, we clearly see Odyssey Charter School, as of 21:06:44 on 07/02/16 had a total amount for FY2016 in Student Body Activity in the amount of $35,831.91.
In the above snapshot, taken from Delaware Online Checkbook today about ten minutes ago, we clearly see an amount showing $153,958.79. The difference between the two is $118,126.88. That is a rather steep increase for student body activities! In looking at their expenses for student body activity for Odyssey, I found two rather large amounts going to First Student Inc. This is the bus company Odyssey uses. As seen in the below picture, the two charges were for $69,486.40 and $48,640.48. If you add those up, you get $118,126.88. Now why would those funds be shifted from some other category to student body activity?
The two payments to First Student Inc. are listed in the below picture.
So if $118,126.88 was shifted to Student Body Activity, where did the funds come from? If Odyssey’s total expenditures didn’t change, what happened to the money? In the FOIA from 7/2/16, it clearly shows Odyssey’s Fleet Rental costs at $612,546.34.
Now watch what happens when I go on Delaware Online Checkbook to find out the current Fleet Rental amount for Odyssey Charter School…
Wait, it went down from $612,546.34 to $494,419.46. That is a difference of $118,126.88…
There is one thing charter schools get that traditional school districts don’t get. Some call it the transportation slush fund. Every year, in the epilogue to the state budget, there is a stipulation that allows charter schools to keep any difference between their budgeted amount for transportation and what they actually spend. For Odyssey, this is listed as “Transportation” in their budget. These costs go up each year. But how much did charter schools get to keep from these surplus funds. Surely it wasn’t that much. In the below pictures from FY2014 and FY2015, we see how much charters get back from this slush fund.
Odyssey has clearly benefitted from this arrangement with legislators that has continued for the past seven years in the epilogue of the state budget. I sincerely hope charters aren’t hiding any funds so they can actually get more from the Delaware Charter School Transportation Slush Fund then they already are!
What I am more curious about with these coding changes are 1) Why are they happening, 2) Who is making the changes, and 3) Are both the districts or charters and the state aware of these changes if only one of them are making the changes? Something to keep in mind is this simple fact: this is only for Student Body Activity. There are hundreds of codes in the Delaware Financial System. This is just what I could find for our schools in one code.
In the picture above, this is based on rounded off figures to the nearest dollar which is why the Odyssey number doesn’t match up with the $118,126.88 I mentioned a few times. I have not been able to look at the other schools to see where the money is going to. Odyssey was easy because of the high amounts involved. While some of these amounts are small, what other shifts are going on? Why are they going on for other areas if they are? We know districts and charters code things incorrectly but who monitors that? Does anyone? And how much does all this shifting of taxpayer dollars affect funding for the next fiscal year?
I would strongly recommend each district or charter school Chief Operating Officer or Business Manager proactively gets in touch with me and voluntarily lets me know of any changes being made to the Delaware Financial System, the justification for these changes, and how they are able to do it. If they aren’t aware of these changes, they need to let me know that as well. Because as I go through each of the different codes in the coming weeks, I will find more. I’ve already done a cursory glance at different (and major) categories and found excessive sums of money shifting around. If you don’t get in touch with me, don’t get upset when I blast the lack of transparency from your school or district in each article. We know this is happening. So the choice is simple: be held accountable or be honest. If there is funny business, you know I will expose it and call you out on it. And each time, I am submitting requests to the State Auditor’s office for each and every category. So you can ignore me all you want, but know that someone else will be knocking on your door. And if the State Auditor’s office ignores this, it is time to take steps at a Federal level. None of you who are manipulating funds will be allowed to do so anymore. If the Auditor won’t hold you accountable, I will. And I will make so much noise you won’t be able to hear above the outcries of the citizens in your district or charter school. This begins now. I don’t want to hear any crap about “I didn’t know” or “no one ever told me”. You are all subject to the rules of this state. Your excuses are exactly that: an excuse. If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to worry about. But someone has to shake all this up and see what settles at the bottom.
I sincerely hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s party and ruining a chance to get some extra money for themselves. The party’s over. Deal with it.
The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.
Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.
First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.
Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.
Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.
With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
One of the three Delaware charter schools currently residing in the Community Education Building in Wilmington now wants out. Academia Antonia Alonso Academy, as of January 29th, submitted a major modification to change their school location from the CEB to the Barley Mill Plaza location currently owned by Odyssey Charter School. Should their modification gain approval, the plan is to lease one of the buildings from Odyssey. So why would they want to move from the lauded CEB?
After reviewing options of other potential locations, it was determined that a location that can be conveniently accessed by families, can be managed directly by the school, and also provides green space and playground facilities would be preferable to the current location in enabling the school to deliver the educational outcomes that it is striving to achieve.
Now this is some logic I can get behind! Looking out for students, recess, and families is crucial to school success nowadays. It is underestimated by our Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell.
Given that 61% of La Academia’s students live in the City of Wilmington zip codes of 19801, 19802 and 19805, the majority of the school’s students live in neighborhoods where they may be regularly exposed to violence and crime, and where their families do not feel safe having their children play outside. This makes it even more important that the school be able to offer the opportunity for these children to be able to have safe play spaces. Non-structured play time has a positive impact on social development and general well-being and allows children the opportunity to practice essential social skills, which in turn improves learning and school climate.
Thank you! While some schools have reduced or gotten rid of recess, this school is actually celebrating it!
Our school has students in grades K-2 who are young and small, and during transitions they have to either navigate 2 to 6 flights of stairs or wait on elevators that require the school to make multiple trips to transport everyone, depending on the location of their next activity. We have had one incident of an elevator full of students getting stuck for over 20 minutes. A second incident occurred with Kuumba Academy students and staff. This has caused some of our students to be afraid of the elevators. Some of our younger students have tripped on the stairs, and now are afraid of using them.
Sounds like a health inspector needs to get in there as soon as possible!
In order to get our students to the outdoor fenced parking lot that is their recess area, our teachers go down the elevators (or six flights of steps), walk down a full city block, cross a dangerous intersection where accidents have happened right in front of our students, down another half of a city block and into the Wilson Street lot. This typically takes 15 minutes. Adding another 15 minutes for the return trip the students lose precious recess time. Developmentally, it is critical that 5, 6, & 7 year olds are able to have time for recess and play.
Wow! How much thought went into student safety for this building?
The Wilson Street Parking Lot, our recess area, has a number of issues relating to safety and supervision. Several areas in the fence are a concern to the school, as well as there being no barrier (mesh fence or other) to prevent students from going behind the storage unit where teachers have no line of sight. This recess area is not fully secure from the public after hours and dangerous items such as broken glass, syringes and other items are routinely found by both teachers and students. There is no typical playground equipment for the students to use such as swings, slides etc.
So what happens if a student accidentally pokes another student or themselves with a syringe? Who is responsible for the potential of a student getting HIV or some other disease from a dirty needle? I would get the hell out of this location too! I’m guessing Governor Markell and Acting US Secretary of Education John King didn’t go out with the kids to recess during King’s visit last month to the Community Education Building…
To see the full major modification request, please see below. For the next few months, the school will go through the charter school accountability committee and public hearings. A final decision will be made by the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education at their April 21st meeting.
Now the big question becomes which charter school will now submit a major modification request to get into the Community Education Building? I hope no elementary schools based on what I’m hearing!
Odyssey Charter School looks to have their hands tied by their current bondholder. If they do not score well on their next financial performance framework, the bondholder will step in to intervene at the school. The school submitted a minor modification request to increase their numbers by a shade below 15%. Normally, that type of request doesn’t require a full-blown Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) hearing, but it is at the Secretary of Education’s discretion. Godowsky wanted that, and here we are. Who did the school call to help them out with their struggling money issues? Below is the initial report from CSAC.
At 9am this morning, the Delaware State Board of Education will have their first meeting of 2016. Normally these meetings are at 1pm, but since Governor Markell has to give his big speech across the street at 2pm, they are having it earlier. I thought they would make it a light schedule for this meeting because of the time change and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vote, but I was very wrong. There is a lot going on at this meeting. So being the good little blogger I am, I thought I would just go ahead and put up everything going on! To get to the potentially illegal thing, you have to go all the way to the bottom… Continue reading “State Board Of Education Preview: WEIC, Assessments, Teacher Evaluations, Charter Modifications, And Maybe One Illegal Request”
Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools. This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right. When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities. All of this is based in 2014-2015 data. This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.
Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test. It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.
The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy. The result: complete chaos in Delaware. While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County. If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports. They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick. They cream from the top applicants. And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique. To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.
The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware. This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state. It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools. Do not be fooled by this illusion. Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores. I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters. This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state. This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools. Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom. All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation. While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.
This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned. We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities. We have other charters with very high populations of the two. We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel. We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it. We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces. We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this. We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace. This is Delaware education.
Matt Albright with the Delaware News Journal just wrote an article on Delaware Military Academy looking to expand. During their charter renewal process, Delaware Military Academy (DMA) asked for a modification to increase their enrollment from 566 cadets to 715 over the next five years. To do so, they would need additional facilities to hold the students. They need capital funding to do this. Delaware charter law explicitly states charters in the state do not receive capital funding. Another Delaware charter, Odyssey, was highlighted in the News Journal a couple weeks ago for wanting this as well. Albright wrote:
The school has a plan for how to expand, but it does not know yet how it will pay for it. This is a common concern for charter schools because they do not get capital funding from state government like traditional schools do. That means charters must stretch their budgets if they want to build new facilities or make major renovations.
That is the way the law was written Matt! Come on, you know this. So why are you pandering to the charters? I don’t see you asking citizens to vote yes in traditional school district school referendums. This is just a big advertisement for the legislators. This is how the charter community works. They get the News Journal to write stories about what they are sorely lacking, right before the legislative session begins, in the hopes it will become an “issue”. If I were the Red Clay board, I wouldn’t approve this modification if the school does not have the ability to hold the additional students and doesn’t have the funding available. This is very poor planning on DMA’s part. Crying poor after they submit a modification but before it is even approved shows poor judgment.
A recent bill which passed in the Florida House of Representatives would allow charters in the state to get 40% of the district’s funding for capital costs. The capital funding part was just a part of a larger bill, but the bill had no controversy until the capital funding section was added. Other highlights of the bill include:
The proposal would create the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation to help new charter schools. It would also make it easier for top-performing charter schools to replicate themselves in high-need areas and specify that charter schools receiving back-to-back Fs would be automatically closed.
This is something Commandant Anthony Pullella, the leader of DMA, is already pushing for.
Pullella isn’t calling for the state to instantly start giving charters as much capital money as it does traditional school districts. But he does believe schools should be able to earn some assistance if they prove they are effective.
He proposes, for example, a graduated system in which a charter could earn 25 percent of a traditional school’s capital funding after five years of proven success. It could progressively earn more the longer it continues to show it is successful.
I could easily see some of the legislators in Delaware trying something similar to what the Florida House just passed. In addition, other parts of the Florida charter bill are taking shape in Delaware. We are seeing this with the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities. As well, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee recommended an organization to oversee all the Wilmington charter schools.
Charter schools were required to be models of innovation that local districts could emulate. But the problem with the perceived success Pullella talks about is the fact that this is based on standardized test scores. This is the barometer of all public schools success in Delaware. There is also the question about the school population and how charters select their applicants. Any school can be a success if the application process is flawed and only the best and the brightest are allowed in. This is something quite a few charter schools in Delaware have issues with. Including the biggest: Charter School of Wilmington, another Red Clay authorized charter.
But the big kicker is this: what happens if the school closes? Since charters are considered corporations and they are not state-owned, the property would revert back to that corporation. Any funding a state kicked in would be lost forever. Something Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams brought up in the News Journal article as well:
“What if the school closes? Does the state get the building? It’s kind of a gray area,” she said. “DMA is very popular with parents. But they knew coming into this that that kind of funding was not available to them.”
Chances are we will see that exact situation play out in exactly one week when the State Board of Education will most likely revoke Delaware Met’s charter and have them close after this marking period ends. While the school received no capital funding, they did receive $175,000 as part of the Delaware Charter School Performance Fund. Money from this fund can go to capital costs with very little oversight. We are now seeing, after twenty years of charters siphoning off more and more local school district dollars, Delaware charters wanting to change the playing field even more in their favor. Even though they get tons of money from the Longwood Foundation, they still want more. Based on an illusion of success called standardized test scores. And as usual, they find a public spotlight in the form of the News Journal.
When folks say I am anti-charter, I’m not. I’m all about following the rules. If it isn’t Family Foundations Academy squandering over a million dollars, or Delaware Met’s self-nuking a month after they opened, its stuff like this that drives me crazy about charters. They brag about how great they are and act like they don’t have any money. But DMA apparently had extra money to spend when they went through their own investigation with the Delaware State Auditor’s office a few years ago. And lets not even get into special education at a lot of these charters. They know exactly what I’m talking about, right guys?
I fully expect to see someone, possibly a Republican State Rep. or Senator, to introduce some crazy legislation like this in Delaware during the second part of the 148th General Assembly. The big difference between Florida and Delaware is that the Republicans don’t hold the majority in the First State. My recommendation to Delaware charters: stop whining about what you don’t have and looking for short cuts. You know where to go to get that kind of money, so give the DuPonts a call. Or one of the numerous charter-loving “foundations” or “non-profits” out there. But stop asking an already cash-strapped state for more money. And stop expecting to get more from the local districts. Because at the rate you are “expanding” and “growing”, you are getting more of the local share of school district money than you ever were. But what happens when those districts reach the breaking point, and they are no longer able to pass referendums? Look at Christina as a model of this. Cause if you don’t, you will end up shooting yourselves in the foot.
The one thing charters in Delaware do much better than traditional school districts is parent engagement. I don’t think anyone will contest that. But please, stop brainwashing these parents into reaching out to the media to get your way. The bizarre cult-like fascination with some Delaware parents and charters is bad enough as it is.
As for the News Journal: please stop with your charter loving articles. Yes, you write about the bad too. But you try to bring issues up not because they are truly newsworthy, but because you are getting calls from the charter lobbyists who also happen to be aligned with your biggest advertisers. It’s called bias, and it is well-known throughout the state.
Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School. Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article. I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy. Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them. And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.” Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow. While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?
Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article? If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.
Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago. But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information. I’m just a blogger! Should Odyssey get more money from the state? Hell no! Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State. Enough. They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.
Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.
Damn straight! Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more? After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts? Sorry, you missed the boat. Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation? They are always giving away money to charters. Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:
“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”
Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:
The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.
So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds? I don’t see the state rushing to help them. And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray! I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:
“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”
The timing on this is impeccable. The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities. This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer. Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.
During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.
If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny. Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.
Odyssey Charter was supposed to have an Open House for their 9th grade choice enrollment a couple weekends ago. It was abruptly postponed. Apparently the school is not quite ready to expand into the high school arena. Sources tell me they are having some bond issues to finance the new building. Nothing major, but a letter is supposed to be going out to parents according to a dad I spoke with. They do have a tentative open house scheduled for next year’s 9th graders in December. I’m sure it is something that will be worked out, they just need some additional time to get everything sorted out. The deadline for choice enrollment is January 13th, 2016. If they are unable to get it all fixed by then, they may have to delay their high school for another year.
The Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education will give a presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, November 19th. Among other things, they have rated charters on a scale of 1-3. These tiers will have 1 being good, 2 some issues, and 3…not so good. The charters at the Tier 3 status are Academia Antonio Alonso, Academy of Dover, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Odyssey Charter School, and Prestige Academy. This list does not include the charters that opened this year because there is nothing to compare their organizational and financial frameworks to. But even though Delaware Met and Delaware Design Lab are not on this list this does not mean they aren’t in trouble.
Delaware Design Lab High School is on probation following their formal review last year for low enrollment before they opened. The school did get their enrollment up, but according to this report the Charter School Office is reviewing their budget and enrollment and are on some type of corrective action. Delaware Met is on formal review for pretty much everything not even three months after they opened. One interesting observation was their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting has been changed from November 30th to December 1st. I would imagine this is because the DOE has to face the Joint Finance Committee over at Legislative Hall on the 30th. It looks like the Charter School Office will be pushing more involvement with parents at the charters with Parent Teacher Organizations. Parent involvement is never a bad thing!
As I trolled through charter school minutes throughout the day, in-between working on another project, and reading with my son, I got to the last one, Thomas Edison Charter School. Lo and behold, Thomas Edison is under investigation by the Delaware State Auditor. While it doesn’t give specifics and why they are being investigated, their July 2015 board minutes give no illusion about this matter. I first reported this in the Spring, and some folks said I am reading too much into it. Thank you, I know the difference between an investigative audit and a regular audit.
State Audit Update
Auditors are coming to the school during the week of 07/27/15 to begin the audit. The auditors are requesting the Board meeting be moved back one week to allow them to meet State deadlines and to report findings to the Board. The Board did not have an objection to the request.
Back in May, the State Auditor’s office revealed during a House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 186 that seven Delaware charters were under investigation, and they were not light matters. We already knew about Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover. I soon found out, once again based on board minutes, that Providence Creek Academy was another. And then in June, I discovered two possible other schools: Thomas Edison and Odyssey Charter School. The State Auditor’s office isn’t able to verify this information. While I still haven’t been able to confirm Odyssey, Thomas Edison is definitely number four. The first three were for financial abuse, involving procurement (purchase) cards and actually opening accounts under the school’s name for personal use. What has Thomas Edison done to incur this inspection? I’m sure we will find out soon enough.
Once again, what is the DOE doing about this? I have yet to hear of any action being taken on Providence Creek Academy and Thomas Edison, even though it is now public knowledge. Both Academy of Dover and FFA were put on formal review in part due to these kinds of things. And who are the other three charters? The wheels on the bus go round and round…
To read the actual board minutes from Thomas Edison’s July meeting, look below:
“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year. This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself. We need to learn from the past.”
The above quote was found in a Delaware charter school’s board minute notes recently. About a year ago, I went through all the charters websites and graded them on certain things: board minutes up to date, agendas for next board meetings posted, and monthly financial information posted. I will be grading each charter based on this information again this year, but I am adding in Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) notifications and minutes. I’m not including charters that haven’t opened yet or charters who got shut down this year cause really, what’s the point?
I can say a lot of the charters have become more compliant and transparent with these in the past year. But some have not. I gave a little bit of slack on the board minutes. A lot of them had a meeting in the past week, so I don’t expect them to get the June minutes up right away. If you see red, it’s not a major thing, but they need to fix it. If it’s in BOLD red, they are majorly breaking the law and they need to fix that ASAP! State law mandates charters put up their monthly financial info up within 15 days of their last board meeting. As well, you have to have a CBOC committee and meetings. Two of the charters on here with some big dinks are on probation already so they need to get on that. Two others are up for charter renewal, so they definitely need to jam on it!
Academia Antonia Alonso– Agenda: no (only has two agendas for two board meetings in past year listed), Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: has meetings listed through end of 2015, Grade: C-
Academy of Dover– Agenda: Yes, Board minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: July 30th, Grade: B
Campus Community School– Agenda: July 2015, Board minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: March 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, Grade: D
Charter School of Wilmington– Agenda: Yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, but does indicate no July meeting, Grade: B
Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security– Agenda: no, website gives generic agenda for every meeting, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade: F
Delaware College Prep– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: April 2014, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade F- for Formal Review
Delaware Military Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: January 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Monday of the month, Grade: D
Early College High School– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: May 2015 (states June meeting had no quorum which is majority of board members present to approve items up for action), CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: no, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed but states meets 4th Thursday of the month, Grade: F
Eastside Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: Shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A
Family Foundations Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A
First State Montessori Academy– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: February 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 4th Thursday of the month, Weird Fact: Uses WordPress as their website, the same as Exceptional Delaware…, Grade: D+
Gateway Lab School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A+
Kuumba Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: B
Las Americas Aspiras Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: yes*, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Thursday of each month, *Superstar: Monthly Financial report is excellent, shows both what the DOE wants AND what state appropriations and codes are needed!!!!, Grade: A+
MOT Charter School– Agenda: no, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: not sure, shows agenda for June 2015 meeting but last meeting was in May 2013, CBOC Minutes: May 2013, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: F
Newark Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: board meetings listed through June, 2016, Grade: A+
Odyssey Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 12th, Grade: A-
Positive Outcomes– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 19th, Bonus: board meetings AND CBOC meetings listed through June 2016, Grade: A+
Prestige Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: none listed, website only shows members of CBOC, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 3rd Tuesday of each month, Grade: F
Providence Creek Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 25th, Bonus: does have all future board meetings through June 2016 on school calendar, Grade: A+
Sussex Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: February 2015, next board meeting: September 16th (no meetings in July or August), Grade: C
Thomas Edison Charter– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 17th, Bonus: Has all board meetings listed through June 2016, Grade A+
There you have it. The Exceptional Delaware July 2015 Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report. 8 out of 22 need to do some serious damage control quick. Because once DOE Jenny (as Kilroy calls her) reads this report, she’s going to have some serious questions for some of you!
Oh, I forgot one thing. The quote up above will be shown later today as part of another article. Because even though that school wants to forget about the past year, the past is knocking on their door! More later!
Has the Delaware DOE announced the winners for the Charter School Performance Award by default, on their very own website? In the section on their website for applicants of the Charter School Performance Award, their is a clear list of how much each school received from their application and what they can do with the funds. Since the state budget only allotted $1 million as opposed to the $1.5 originally requested, this list could have been more extensive. They did say they would announce the winners today! Each school listed provides the link to my articles on each school’s application as well as my take and opinion about what they asked for.
Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: $250,000, requested $250,000, no restrictions on special education inclusion model
Newark Charter School: $250,000, requested $400,000, can only use for STEM Laboratory
Campus Community School: $50,000, requested $250,000, can only use for school library project
The Delaware MET: $175,000, requested $250,000, can only use for school start-up costs, not for marketing or promotion or student recruitment
Delaware STEM Academy: $175,000, requested $250,000, same as above
First State Military Academy: $50,000, requested $250,000, same as above
Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall: $50,000, requested $250,000, same as above
The only applicant that wasn’t eligible at all was Odyssey Charter School due to their probation status during the 2014-2015 academic year.
To read the full list on the DOE Website, go here: