Kuumba, DE College Prep, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations, Providence Creek, DE Military Academy, Pencader…When Do We Make It Stop?

Charter school financial abuse.  It happens.  All the time in Delaware.  It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes.  These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket.  But our State Government allows this to happen.  Delaware has no Inspector General.  Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass.  And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it.  State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits.  Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no.  It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first.  Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.

These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done?  These are not elected board members at charters.  And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members.  Many of the charters websites are a joke.  Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up.  No charter board records their meetings.  No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that.  None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time.  The average citizen would in a New York minute.  But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us.  We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.

Let me get one thing straight.  I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE.  I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools.  I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses.  The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?”  But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it.  But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment.  It has become a joke.  The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools.  And the results of all these reports are always the same.

The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group.  If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card.  If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?

And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.”  While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business.  Children are not a profit center.  They go to school to learn.  They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank.  They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board.  If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education.  I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later.  And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this.  About all this education nonsense in our state.  You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell.  You answer to the people that elected you.  The people are sick of the abuse and scandal.  And we are waking up.  Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong.  It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something.  Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January.  Stop the fraud playing out in our state.  Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.

*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats.   The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.

Delaware Met Paid $380,000 To Innovative Schools Over Two Years…For What?

Now that the Delaware Met is closing down a month after it opened them, many in Delaware are asking “what the hell happened?”  Don’t worry, I’m in that same group.  In all my time doing this, I never got a lead that turned into something solid within hours, much less a lead that announced the closure of a charter school that no  one seemed to be any the wiser about their difficulties.  But my big question surrounds their management organization: Innovative Schools.  What did Innovative Schools actually do that warranted them receiving $380,000 since July of 2013?  And why were there employees being paid since July 2013 as well when the school didn’t even open until two years later?

From July 2013 until March 2014, we see salaries going out twice a month ranging from $3,245.19 to $4,110.59 (only once for this one, ironically, 12 days before Christmas).  Then in March, it bumps up to around $5,400 a month, but then back down to $2,700 in June.  Who was getting paid these funds?  And for what?  Meanwhile, Innovative Schools had over $380,000.00 in 26 months on their tab.  That’s some serious coin for a charter that hadn’t even opened yet for the bulk of these funds!  The Delaware Met website, which hasn’t had any board minutes posted (and their only one) since October of 2014, shows 15 board members.  And under the section entitled “School Leader’s Blog”, someone named Tricia talks about how she accepted the position of Head of School in May, 2015.  And good luck finding any staff, they don’t exist on the website.  Now the DOE website shows the Head of School to be Patricia Hunter Crafton, so I have to assume that would be “Tricia”.  But when I emailed the DOE and The Delaware Met for information yesterday, I received an out of office email for Crafton indicating she was out on maternity leave until November.  Nash Childs is listed as the President of their Board, but no relation to Great Oaks Charter School leader Kia Childs.

So who was the Innovative Schools lead for The Delaware Met?  Innovative Schools website lists Jemuel Anderson as the Operations Manager for The Delaware Met.  Now some bell is going off telling me I’ve heard this name before…where…where…where…and then the bell rings!  He was one of the plaintiffs when Moyer tried suing the State of Delaware over Moyer’s closure.  But Jemuel Anderson’s charter school history goes back beyond even Moyer.  He was the topic of many comments over on Kilroy’s a few years ago with the “is he” or “isn’t he” argument going back and forth over whether he was qualified to be a teacher rep on the board based on his lack of certified credentials on DEEDs (the place to look if teachers are certified or not in Delaware).  To go from either a one-on-one para (with the same student) for two years at Pencader to an Operations Manager of The Delaware Met for Innovative Schools seems like a pretty good career jump!  Astronomical I would say!

I’m just going to take a stab in the dark here and ask the obvious.  Could there maybe be some financial issues going on with this school as well?  In which case, the date of their official closure will be very interesting to watch.  If it is after September 30th, what guarantee does the State of Delaware have to ask for that money back?  If it’s already out there that the school is closing, what would happen if every single student left before September 30th?  Would they get no funding which would then force them into bankruptcy?  And it seems like it doesn’t matter if Innovative Schools cut ties with the school.  You know they have to be going “Ka-ching! We got $380,000.00 from a school that was only open a month!  Thank you Delaware taxpayers!”

Meanwhile, more Delaware students that are bounced around from Delaware charter to charter to charter are the true victims in all of this.  A generation of lost charter school students lost in the even greater sea of lost Wilmington children who are lost in the vast ocean called proficiency gaps.

House Bill 53: Charters Must Be Audited By State Auditor

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced legislation that would make Delaware charter schools have to go through the same auditing process as school districts and vocational districts with their yearly audit.  Since 2010, charters have been exempt from being audited by the Delaware State Auditor’s office, currently run by Tom Wagner.

In light of financial improprieties by Family Foundations Academy, Pencader and a slew of other charters that has not yet come into public notice, this bill is timely and important.  The charters have the ability now to hire an independent auditor, but this bill would change all that and would cause the charters to be audited the same way all other public schools in Delaware are required to.

Pencader Days, The News Journal Interview With Mrs. Lewis

Video

Charter school parents: Could this happen at your charter school? Do you think something like this could be happening? If so, contact me!

Exceptional Delaware

http://archive.delawareonline.com/videonetwork/1704081299001/School-leader-questioned-about-PhD

I had heard some things about what happened with Pencader Charter School, the school that was shut down by the Delaware DOE last year, but I had no idea how bad it was until I started watching some videos. Wow! And the fact that so many supported her when this was discovered. I’ve heard of school loyalty, but this is another thing!

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