All relationships have their ups and downs. Such is the case between former Kilroy’s Delaware commenter Publius e decere and former Pencader board member and current Christina board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan. Throw in a wild card like Henry Clampitt, former board member of Charter School of Wilmington, current board member at Gateway Lab School, and also a candidate for the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education, and you have what I like to call a bizarre love triangle (which just so happens to be an awesome tune by New Order). But what I found this morning… that brings this triangle to a whole new level… Continue reading
All the media attention has been on Delaware Met, but another charter school may face the charter revocation knife in less than twelve hours! The Delaware Department of Education is the charter school authorizer for most of the charters in the state, but three of them fall under the watch of the Red Clay Consolidated School District: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep. The last of those is on formal review, and the odds are in favor of Delaware College Prep getting their charter revoked at the Red Clay board meeting tonight.
If this happens, and Delaware Met goes down at the State Board of Education meeting tomorrow, that will be five charter schools shut down in the past few years: Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Met. For a state with anywhere from 22-25 charters (it is getting hard to keep track with the openings and closings), this is an abysmal track record. Delaware doesn’t have the charter chains like many other states. Most of them are “mom and pop” charters. Most of these are serving children with needs greater than other charters.
The inner-city charter experiments are clearly not working. Sure, folks can say East Side is a resounding success, but when you look at their Smarter Balanced results, they weren’t much better than their traditional school district peers. I am not saying I agree with using standardized test scores as a measure of success or failure, but for the sake of argument, their perceived “growth” blew up with their SBAC scores. The problem is also the charters who do “perform” well. This is another illusion cast upon our state because of their enrollment practices. We all know who those players are but nothing ever changes. So we continue this game of Russian Roulette with our Wilmington students. We are rolling the dice with them and the results are horrible.
And yet, the charters with some of the most egregious financial abuses in our state stay open. Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy collectively wasted over $300,000 in taxpayer funds for personal use. Their schools are still open. Their former leaders are not in prison for outright theft. But we will bounce students around Wilmington through choice and charter openings and closings without any regard to the amount of instability this inflicts on our districts, our communities, and most of all, the students.
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!
It was announced today in every single Delaware media outlet that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is “stepping down” and Dr. Steven Godowsky, the former Superintendent of the New Castle County V0cational Technical School District, will fill the role on an interim basis pending a special hearing with the Delaware Senate to accept Governor Markell’s nomination on October 20th. Who is he?
According to his LinkedIn account and his biography with the University of Delaware, this would not be his first rodeo with the Department of Education. He served as a Supervisor there from 1977-1982 after serving a short stint in the former Alfred I. DuPont school district as a special education teacher. He ran the Exceptional Children/Special Education division before becoming returning to teaching at New Castle County Vo-Tech. In 2000, he was appointed Assistant Superintendent and three years later he became the Superintendent, a role he served faithfully for the next eight years. Upon retiring in 2011, Dr. Godowsky served as a Supervisor the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).
I ran across him for the first time from the DOE’s Charter School Accountability Committee final report for Gateway Lab School’s charter renewal last fall. He helped the school to overcome the odds when their charter was renewed last December after the CSAC recommended their charter not be renewed. He also assisted the Pencader Business School Board of Directors in board governance training at the former charter school in 2012.
As a former Superintendent of the Year in Delaware, Godowsky also served as President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Administration (now called DASA) in 2008.
It sounds like Godowsky has decades of experience with Delaware education, and I am particularly impressed he has a very rich background in special education and is willing to fight for students with disabilities, as evidenced by his work with Gateway.
New Castle County Vo-Tech Education Associate Danny Rufo tweeted the following statement earlier today:
While some may lament his time with the Vision 2015 workshop, and their ties to Rodel, let’s be honest and face facts. Most of the higher-ups in Delaware school districts and charters have spent some sort of time on one of these committees. It does not mean they are “bought and paid for” by Rodel, especially in the pre-Race To The Top years.
I definitely think he is much higher up the education ladder in experience compared to Mark Murphy. It has become more than obvious what we don’t need in a Secretary of Education, so this is a step in the right direction. Nothing against Dr. Godowsky, but I really hope the Delaware Senate asks him many questions in regards to the future of Delaware education. When Mark Murphy passed the nomination, the questions from the Senate were very limited in scope. We must not make the same mistake again. I feel confident, based on his vast experience as well as ringing endorsements from several Delaware legislators, he could be the right man for the job!