Academy of Dover, Freire, DE Design Lab, & Prestige Academy Get Their Initial Formal Review Meeting Reports

What do these Delaware Charter Schools have in common: Academy of Dover, Freire Charter School of Wilmington, Prestige Academy and Delaware Design Lab High School?  Not only are they all under formal review, but the Charter School Accountability Committee came out with their initial reports in the last hour!

We start the show with Academy of Dover.  Having attended this meeting, it is missing some crucial moments, but that’s okay.  I’m sure it will all come out in the wash!

Next up is Freire Charter School of Wilmington.  Not even opened yet, and they are already up for formal review.  But they do have a get out of jail free card if they decide to use it….

Prestige Academy sure does have a lot going against it right now.  Academic and enrollment are not good reasons to have a formal review placed on your school!

Last, but not least, is Delaware Design Lab High School.  They already received a new lease on life last year with a modification to reduce their enrollment.  They can only use this trick once.  Will they get their enrollment up?

It’s very sad when 18% of the charter schools in the state are under a formal review.  Actually, make that 23% if Red Clay puts the formal review screws on Delaware College Prep.  The final reports, after public hearings tomorrow and Wednesday will be issued two days after the final committee meetings on June 5th.

Prestige Academy Formal Review Notification & Timeline

Prestige Academy needs to get their enrollment up very fast!  No excuses.  This school has been open for a while now.  Whatever issues they are having, they need to fix them if they want to stay open!

 

Formal Review for Freire, Prestige Academy, DE Design Lab & Academy of Dover

At the State Board of Education meeting today, four Delaware charters, two of which have not even opened yet, were all put on formal review.  Two were for enrollment, one was for enrollment and academic issues, and the last was for academic and financial issues.

Freire and Delaware Design Lab High School were put on formal review for low enrollment.  As per Delaware state code, an approved charter school must have 80% of it’s fall enrollment by April 1st.  Freire had a major modification approved to reduce their enrollment cap from 336 to 224 at last month’s State Board meeting.  As of April 1st, they were at 78 and today they are at 92.  Delaware Design Lab is going through the same growing pains as well.  Other charters scheduled to open next year have the following enrollment percentages- Great Oaks: 100%, First State Military: 94% and Delaware Met: 81%.  Freire could ask for a one-year extension to open, but they would have to do so by 5/12.  Delaware Design Lab already was granted a one-year extension last year, which can only be done once.

Prestige Academy was placed on Formal Review for low enrollment as well as academic reasons.  Out of their 225 enrollment cap, they were at 59% as of 4/1 with 186 enrollments, and today they are at 190.  Their academic percentage of proficiency also went down 17% between the 2012-2013 year and the 2013-2014 year, from 56% to 39.1%.  What muddies the waters on this formal review is the framework for Smarter Balanced won’t be available until January for all schools.  For all three of the enrollment formal reviews, Executive Director of the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education Jennifer Nagourney said “Funding drives academic programs.”  And the schools funding is based on enrollment figures.

Academy of Dover, also in the hot seat for academic reasons definitely has some major financial issues going on.  Like Family Foundations Academy, they are being audited by State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  This also explains why the financial part of their performance framework has not been updated on the DOE website since last fall.  The school’s auditor noticed some financial irregularities and it was sent to Wagner’s office.  They couldn’t put anything up while the audit investigation was going on.  Nagourney did share there is a litigation matter going on with the school but she was unable to give any details.  I asked her specifically if the litigation had anything to do with former Head of School Noel Rodriguez resigning last fall, and stated she wasn’t sure of that.  She did state the auditing issues began an the same time Rodriguez resigned.  I’m sure there is much more to the story about Academy of Dover than what we are hearing, and I’ve already put some feelers out there.

Academia Antonia Alonso was taken off probation status, Odyssey Charter is complying with their required meeting with the Public Integrity Commission and will meet with them later this month, and Family Foundations Academy submitted their first monthly report to the charter school office as a condition of their probation status given by the State Board of Education last month.

After the meeting, I spoke with Nagourney and David Blowman, the Deputy Secretary of Education, along with Matthew Albright of the News Journal, Avi Wolfman-Arent with Newsworks/WHYY and Larry Nagengast with WDDE for a q and a on these issues.  The big question which the DOE was not able to answer was why these enrollment figures are so low.  The question was asked if the charter market in Wilmington is saturated.  but the fact that two other charters opening next fall makes this a difficult issue.  Blowman explained that a change in enrollment deadlines coupled with a first count of funding based on enrollment figures based on a 5/1 count seems to be causing problems this year.  When asked by Wolfman-Arent about any “ghost” schools, where an approved charter never opened due to low enrollment, Blowman and Nagourney did not know of any.

And yes, I was shocked to be invited to this impromptu media gathering!

Prestige Academy: Formal Review for Enrollment & Academic, Academy of Dover: Academic & Financial, Freire & DE Design Lab: Low Enrollment

The four Delaware charter schools being considered for formal review have a multitude of reasons for this potential designation.  Prestige, Freire and Delaware Design Lab all had very low enrollment figures by the April 1st deadline.  Prestige had 59%, Freire had 35%, and Delaware Design Lab had 46%.  Prestige Academy is also under the hot seat for academic performance.  Academy of Dover is in trouble because of both financial reasons and academic performance.  From the Delaware State Board of Education Agenda for tomorrow’s board meeting:

Details

The Department of Education will request the Assent of the State Board of Education to place the following charter schools on formal review

Academy of Dover:
The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter, financial management, financial oversight, and academic performance.

The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review. If the State Board assents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.


Delaware Design Lab High School:
As of the April 1 enrollment deadline, the charter school had enrolled only 137 out of 300 students, or 46% of the approved enrollment. The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter and financial viability.
The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review.   If the State Board assents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

Freire Charter School:
As of the April 1 enrollment deadline, the charter school had enrolled only 78 out of 224 students, or 35% of the approved enrollment.  The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter and financial viability.
The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review.   If the State Board consents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

Prestige Academy:
As of the April 1 enrollment deadline, the charter school had enrolled only 186 out of 315 students, or 59% of the approved enrollment. The issues for the formal review include concerns relative to compliance with their charter, financial viability, and academic performance.
The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to place the charter school on formal review.  If the State Board assents, the formal review will be referred to the Charter School Accountability Committee for review and report.

The Probationary status of: Academia Antonia Alonso – All conditions have been met, and the school has demonstrated financial viability.

The Secretary will announce his decision, and if necessary, will seek the assent of the State Board of Education to discharge the charter from probation.   If the State Board assents, the charter school will be removed from probationary status and restored to good standing. 

Prestige Academy, Freire, DE Design Lab, and Academy of Dover All Getting Formal Review

On the agenda for the Delaware State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, April 16th, it states under the charter section “Formal Review of a Charter School”.  I was curious which one it was and opened up the tab, and found that four charters are going to be put on formal review.

Details

The Department of Education will request the Assent of the State Board of Education to place the following charter schools on formal review
(Specific Information will be provided by the DOE by 4/14)
  • Academy of Dover
  • Delaware Design Lab High School
  • Freire Charter School 
  • Prestige Academy
The Department of Education will request to remove Academia Antonia Alonso from probationary status

Academy of Dover, Delaware Design Lab, Freire and Prestige Academy are all getting this designation on Thursday.  I imagine DE Design Lab and Freire will go under review for enrollment.  I’m guessing they are not at 80%.  As for Academy of Dover and Prestige Academy, I have some guesses.  Academy of Dover had some financial problems last fall when Head of School Noel Rodriguez “resigned”.  The DOE still does not have the financial part of the school’s performance framework on their website, over six months later.  Prestige Academy had their December board meeting at a restaurant/tavern and their website is a mess.  It would seem very late in the year for these schools to go under formal review for academics.  Anyone out there know anything specific?

The Delaware DOE website has no mention of this, probably because the State Board of Education meeting would be the official announcement, but their notes do say information will be forthcoming tomorrow.

Holy Freire Batman! Prestige Academy & Moyer Had Highest Charter Suspension Rates, Over 60% of Students!!!!

With an astonishing 653 suspensions, Prestige Academy had the highest suspension rate out of any Delaware charter school.  176 out of the school’s 287 enrolled students for the 2013-2014 school year were suspended, for a 61.3% rating.  That means over 3/5ths of the school was suspended at one point in time during this school year.  That is insanely high!

Moyer came in second, with a 60.97% suspension rate, 138 out of 227 students, with a total of 338 suspensions.  The Delaware Department of Education ordered Moyer to close at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, despite a lawsuit by the City of Wilmington that was dismissed.

This makes the new Freire charter coming to town look like a mere detention!  I’m sorry, if you are suspending that many kids at a charter school, maybe the problem isn’t the kids!  Sounds like zero tolerance at Prestige and Moyer.  Freire is the new charter opening up in the 2015-2016 year that will actually expel kids for bad behavior right off the bat.  I’m sure a lot of kids will want to go to that school!

How Did East Side, Prestige, Kuumba & Thomas Edison Get Out Of DPAS II? The Delaware Charter Collaborative

As I saw in the Family Foundations Academy Update Report submitted to the Delaware Department of Education for their formal review, four charter schools in Delaware are part of a consortium called the Delaware Charter Collaborative.  Because East Side, Prestige, Kuumba and Thomas Edison are so special, they get to skip the DPAS II and form their own teacher evaluation program.  And it looks like Family Foundations Academy will join the cabal since East Side took them over in a “consultation” agreement.  Can anyone tell me what makes the teachers in these schools so special?  First one to answer gets the Sunday No-Prize!  Check out the rubric below:

Jack Perry to Resign as Executive Director at Prestige Academy

Jack Perry, the original founder and executive director of Prestige Academy has, ahem, chosen to resign at the end of this school year according to a letter from the board of directors addressed to parents of students.

This has nothing to do with my story from earlier today since this letter is dated January 28th.  I would have no way to explain how this out of nowhere news would happen the day after I wrote another article about a Delaware charter leader being let go.  Charter leaders never resign, unless they embezzled tons of money from the school.  Wait, that’s not always the case.  But that is not the case here!

To date this year, heads of school have resigned or been terminated at Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, and now Prestige Academy.  I’m not sure what the current status is concerning Odyssey Head of School Nick Manalakos, but I did post an article last December indicating he may be making a switch to a Kent County charter.

I would have to assume Mr. Perry wants to resign, for whatever reason.  I do find it interesting the board said his tenure was “beyond the typical duration for a founding leader”.

In other news, the question of the day will be “Can you read between the lines?”

Let’s Play A Game, It’s Called “Find The Current Prestige Academy Board Minutes”

Based on my earlier article today about the infamous Prestige Academy December board meeting, I thought I would challenge my readers.  You have to go to the Prestige Academy website, here: http://www.prestigeacademycs.org/

And then you have to find their current board minutes.  Time yourself, and then comment on here with how long it took for you to find them.  They are there, you just have to find them.  Good luck, and please don’t throw your computer at the wall in frustration!

Prestige Academy Violates It’s Own Charter At December Board Meeting At A Tavern

I had to do a double-take when I read this, but yeah, this happened!  Only five members of the Prestige Academy 12 person school board were present at their December 15th, 2014 meeting.  In order to have a quorum to vote on anything at a board meeting, a majority of board members have to be present.

According to their own bylaws:

ARTICLE VI: MEETINGS OF THE BOARD

Section 1. Compliance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Board shall conduct its meetings as if it were a “public body” as defined in 29 Del. Code § 10002(a), and according to the requirements of Chapter 100 of said Title 29 (the “Act”). In addition to the published notices required by the Act, notices of each meeting of the Board shall be forwarded to its members by any method that preserves proof of such notice.

Section 2. Quorum.

A quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of the Board shall consist of at least one-half the voting Directors then serving, except as may otherwise be required by law.

*Bolded for emphasis on my part

So there you have it, as per their own by-laws.  So what happened at their December 15th board meeting? Aside from the fact that it was at a bar (which was in the agenda believe it or not), Buckley’s Tavern, they did indeed vote on items as per their own board minutes.  But what if a student wanted to come to give public comment?  Would they be able to do that without a parent present at a bar?  This didn’t happen, but I just have a thing about board meetings occurring at a place that serves liquor.  Yes, this is also a restaurant, but I didn’t know school boards can have meetings at places that aren’t available to every member of the public.  Did the board have their 45 minute meeting and then get drinks after?  I would certainly hope so!

I have a feeling more Prestige news may be coming out very soon…

In the meantime for Prestige Academy, you may want to update your website.  Having to click on 2012 links for your board minutes, and then going through a couple more links, is not really showing how transparent your school is.  Many people would just assume you haven’t updated your website since 2012!