AHEPA Member Harasses Odyssey Whistle Blower Over Formal Review, Today Last Day For Public Comment

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At the final Public Hearing for Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, public comment was given by Jennifer Ballas indicating a prominent member of the AHEPA organization publicly harassed her at Odyssey’s last public board meeting after she spoke out against AHEPA.

After I spoke at the last public board meeting, I was attacked by AHEPA member who threatened and tried to intimidate me, and things that Mr. Manny Kanas, who used to be AHEPA Board President, said, I was a loud mouth, disrespectful, rude piece of useless flesh that is a total puppet to Dr. Nick.  He told me I was stupid.  And he wanted me to go away.  And that the cat had my tongue, even though I did not have the time to quickly respond to him.  And that scorned women are the worst.

It can be tough to be a whistle blower.  You put yourself in the direct path of those who don’t like change.  Who don’t like the truth coming out.  This Manny Kanas person who used his bully pulpit in an attempt to humiliate and intimidate a woman who is devoted to the success of children at Odyssey, is a coward.  A pathetic man who is clearly all about control and holding onto a relic of the past that is not welcome in the 21st Century.  I have nothing against the concept of AHEPA.  I don’t have any issue with any group or culture formed to promote education.  What I do take issue is what the Wilmington chapter of this organization has become.  And their treatment of women is deplorable.

Even former DSEA President Mike Matthews gave public comment at the public hearing.

And the fact that so many have gotten up here tonight and said without the AHEPA majority, the school will fail, you just told those hundreds of teachers at that school they are failing.  And I reject that on its face.  This is arrogance and hubris that has led us to the point where we are today.

Today is the final day to submit public comment for Odyssey Charter School.  All comments must be received by the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education before 4pm est today.  Public comment can be emailed to infocso@doe.k12.de.us and MUST be done today.  If you are against the practices of an outside AND private organization controlling a tax-payer paid public school, please let your voice be heard urging Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and the State Board of Education to reject outside control of a public school board.  I’ll be submitting mine!

In the meantime, all the public comments from the meeting Monday night are below.  It is very easy to see who is cheer-leading for AHEPA and who is speaking out for the truth.

The final decision regarding the formal review for Odyssey Charter School will be at the July 18th State Board of Education meeting at the Townsend Building in Dover at 5pm.  It will be a very interesting decision!

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As Odyssey Gets Ready For 2nd Public Hearing, AHEPA Emails Sound Like The Handmaid’s Tale…Blessed Be The Fruit!!!

As the clock ticks for a decision on Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, the final public hearing will be tonight.  Meanwhile, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), which is the primary reason the school went under formal review in the first place, is begging their membership to come out in support of AHEPAn control of the school’s Board of Directors.  So much so they are beginning to sound very desperate.  I would urge the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education to use a grain of salt when they read the public comments submitted to them.


From: AHEPA Wilmington Chapter 95 Office of the President <ahepawilm@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 11:10 PM
Subject: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
To:

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Good evening Brothers,

We need to FLOOD the DOE with emails regarding the AHEPA Family’s involvement with the Odyssey Charter School.  We MUST retain control for the school to continue to grow with the mission and vision of its pioneering creators!  Below, please find instructions on what should be done IMMEDIATELY.  In addition to yourself, share with family members and friends so that we inundate the DOE email box with supporting emails.

Click on this link:   https://delaware.gov/help/degov-contact.shtml
Enter your name, email, etc.
In the drop down for Category, enter Education
Subject: I support the AHEPA Family majority on the Odyssey Board…..or pick your own subject.  But make it stand out that you support the AHEPA Family
Enter your information in the body information
Submit

Share this with your friends and relatives.  Have your spouse do it too!  We need to impact their inbox!

And don’t forget!  We need you AND your VOICE and the Carvel State Office Building in downtown Wilmington next Monday, July 8th at 5pm.  You must sign up to speak, so please be there before 5!!!

Fraternally,
Michael Klezaras III

President


That was solicitation for the public comment.  Notice the use of the word “brothers” in the above email.  I guess “sisters” don’t get this email.  But I digress…

The following email was sent out yesterday to AHEPANs for public comment at the public hearing tonight at 5pm.


From: Michael Kirifides < mkirifides@gmail.com>
Date: July 7, 2019 at 1:44:14 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Fwd: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!

Dear Friend of AHEPA,
I would like to extend this invitation with urgency to support the local Chapter #95 of AHEPA in governing the Odyssey Charter School. There have been unsubstantiated allegations from a few individuals whose complaints have triggered the Delaware Department of Education to request that AHEPA cede its governing authority over the Odyssey Charter School. Without question, in time, the allegations will be disproved, yet the DoE has been pressuring the local AHEPA to relinquishing its governing majority to the few who are in hostile opposition to AHEPA. As a community, we are coordinating a grass roots response to the Charter School Accountability Committee during the public hearing on Monday July 8th at 5 pm being held at the Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French Street, Wilmington, DE 19801.
Thank you in advance,
Michael Kirifides

 

From a “few individuals”.  Those “few individuals” sure put the spotlight on a lot of individuals, didn’t they Mr. Kirifides!  Is that spotlight “hostile” or just making sure the school board follows the laws of the state?  Didn’t know it was hostile to point out financial fraud!  I hope this formal review puts the AHEPA brotherhood in their place!  “May the Lord be!”

***Editor’s note: If you haven’t read or watched “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the references to the religious quotes will be lost on you. For those who do, doesn’t AHEPA sound very much like Gilead?

New Odyssey Financial Abuse Uncovered While Two Brave Women Give Powerful Testimony

The funny thing about facts, my friends, is that despite the attempts of the board, they cannot be interpreted.  They cannot be changed, and they cannot be maligned for they are facts.  And the facts are that this Board violated state laws, DOE rules and regulations and maybe even criminal code laws.

 

So yes, our books are pristine.  Every dollar is accounted for.  The problem is the dollars and where they went.  Where they buried those invoices under what budget lines.  Because it’s there.  And if the State Auditor would do her job we could actually find that out.

Odyssey Charter School is in trouble.  Big trouble.  On the dawn of their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for their formal review this Monday, an article by Delaware Public Media came out showing even more financial abuse going on at the Greek-themed charter school.  Meanwhile, the CSAS initial report came out along with the transcript for their public hearing and they are explosive!  The transcript reveals what has been going on with teachers at the school and what led to the eventual decision to unionize. Continue reading

Odyssey Goes Under Formal Review For Financial & Governance Reasons

Yesterday, the Delaware State Board of Education voted in the majority to put Odyssey Charter School under formal review for six violations of Delaware state code. Continue reading

The Lies Greg Meece Says About Newark Charter School

Greg Meece runs Newark Charter School.  For 18 years, Newark Charter School is rated not only one of the top charter schools in Delaware but one of the top schools.  There is a multitude of reasons for this but it boils down to diversity.  At their public hearing for their charter renewal process, Meece made a comment that is sure to rile up the diversity crowd all over again.  Meece openly lied about his own school. Continue reading

DAPSS Qualified Curriculum Director Rips School Leadership In Public Hearing

I heard the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Public Hearing the other night was off the hook, but I had no idea!  Today, the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office released the transcript of the hearing.  Their Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, went after school leadership over her many attempts to get a better curriculum going in the school but felt she was ultimately stymied in her efforts.

One criticism I received recently was that I am under-qualified to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction — coming from someone who does not have a degree — a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and experience in various aspects above and beyond that within the educational community — I find this disrespectful because my efforts have been stymied by the lack of educational leadership at the Academy which before I arrived was filled with nepotism and cronyism.

Maybe if the Delaware DOE was paying attention they would have been able to catch that nepotism and cronyism.  It wasn’t exactly a state secret on how bad this school was doing for many years, but the Delaware DOE turned a blind eye until they couldn’t.  But I digress…

I came to this school and stepped up to the challenge to improve things for students. I was told I was going to be given autonomy to create changes. However, through Academy leadership, education best practices were secondary to maintaining personal relationships. Moreover, I was undermined and a culture of distrust and suspicion was created.

As mentioned in her testimony, Thomas came to the school in August of 2016.  This was way after the school had low enrollment and proficiency issues.  Any school turnaround takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.

I came in with a strategic plan implementing LF, Read 180, IXL, many other research-based practices that we’ve put in place, and we will give you in the CSAC rebuttal. I know the Academy is capable of doing a whole lot better than what the achievement scores show, but I was stymied in my implementation of a teaching/learning model through a series of professional development and professional learning communities.

It sounds to me like she was making a valiant effort to improve things.  I’m surprised the school didn’t already have some of these key programs in the school already!

I came to the Academy to raise expectations. I came to the Academy with all of the greatest intentions. I still believe in the school and its mission. The students and staff deserve a whole lot better, but that starts at the very top. It has been made very clear to me that I am not the top. I have taken directives. I have finished tasks and I did as a good soldier would. That’s it.

Wow!  Is that coming from new Board President Margie Lopez-Waite or the vastly under-qualified Head of School Herbert Sheldon?  Or both?  Lopez-Waite comes from the MBNA/Bank of America world.  While she may have performed miracles at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (or did she just cheerlead the school while others did all the work?), it sounds like she came into DAPSS wanting to run the show.  She may be President of the Board but that does not give her the unilateral ability to do as she pleases.    It sounds like the school tried to make Thomas the sacrificial lamb in this process.  From everything I’ve seen and heard, it sounds like the biggest problem at the school is Sheldon himself!

I find it ironic that someone with an advanced degree in education with extensive knowledge of educational best practices is treated like this but their Head of School basically has a bookkeeping background at East Side Charter School.  It doesn’t seem right.  If charters are to ultimately survive, they need people with deep education backgrounds.  I’m not sure what happened as a result of Thomas’ comments, but she no longer appears on the school website.

Meanwhile, I did receive my FOIA request back from Sheldon.  All he sent was what already appears on the school’s website.  So their huge deficit will have to be discovered another way.

The rest of the Public Hearing is below.  Aside from Thomas’ controversial testimony (which also praised the school), the many public comments were in favor of the school and while many recognized the struggles of the school, it was also urged the State Board of Education keep them open.  Towards the end, the Colonial bomb is dropped by a teacher.  And a big thank you to the excellent transcriptionist at Wilcox & Fetzer who always do a great job with these Public Hearings!

State Board Of Ed Puts DE Academy of Public Safety & Security On Formal Review

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously put Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security on formal review for academic and financial reasons.  The 6-0 vote puts the New Castle charter school through a two-month review period where they have to meet with the Charter School Accountability Committee and go through public hearings.  The placement of a charter school to formal review status does not mean they are being shut down.  Putting a school under formal review is the process.  Any decision to leave a school open or shut it down takes place after a formal review and the findings that come out of that.

I knew their enrollment was low but that isn’t the only reason they went under the formal review knife.  Academics played a big part.  This is always tough for me to support because I loathe the use of standardized testing in punishing any school.  With DAPSS, they went from Smarter Balanced to the SAT in a two-year period.  In 2015, the SAT was remade to include Common Core.

Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will make her recommendation to the State Board of Education at their March 15th meeting and then the State Board votes on that recommendation.  The letter from Secretary Bunting notifying the school of their formal review status, the timeline, and their performance matrices for each category are included below.

Either the Charter School Office was ready for the State Board to vote for the formal review or they are able to predict the future, because the below PDF was created at 1pm yesterday, four hours before the State Board of Education began their meeting!  I would have to say the school’s founder, Charlie Copeland, is not happy about this!

Delaware Dept. of Education Requesting 7.7% Increase In Operational Costs For FY2018 Budget

The Delaware Dept. of Education just held their FY2018 budget request hearing with the Delaware Office of Management and Budget.  They are requesting a 7.7% increase over their FY2017 budget.  This would push Delaware public education costs over the $1.4 billion mark to an astonishing $1,485,183,000 which would leave it closer to the $1.5 billion mark.  But just because the Delaware DOE is requesting this it doesn’t mean they are going to get it.  With the state facing a deficit of anywhere from $150 to $300 million for FY2018, many requests by various state agencies won’t be granted.

Among the increases are the following:

$39.838 million for FY2017 Salary/OEC Contingency (benefits)

$9.238 million for Educator Step Increases

$945,100 for Paraprofessional Salary Compression

$12.221 million for 2016-2017 unit growth of 144 units

$16.175 million for General Contingency increase of 190 units

$202,000 for Delmar tuition

$751,200 for related services

$685,600 for academic excellence

$3.9725 million for public school transportation

$602,000 for technology operations (there are three categories under this, I will find out what each one is for)

$7.98 million for Early Childhood initiatives

$3 million for public education bandwidth

$1 million for Technology Block Grant

$1.75 million for one-time replacement of DEEDS

$473,000 for technology operations for district/charters for

$219,500 to replace federal funds for personnel costs

$2.7 million for World Language Immersion expansion

$1.2 million for Teacher Leader Pilot expansion

$25,000 for Professional Standards Board

$18,000 for increases in Schoology

$500,000 for Seed Scholarships

$2.4 million for public school transportation

$500,000 for Career Pathways

 

They are also looking to made reductions of $4 million to the following:

$50,000 from SEED/Inspire marketing

$2.52 million from K-12 Pass Through Programs

$113,000 for Tech-Prep 2+2

$150,000 from Prison Education

$1.2 million from Driver Training

 

The Dept. of Education is also requesting $920,000 for Major Capital FY2018 Certificate of Necessity requests.  $633,745 of that would come from the state share and $286,862 would come from the Local source of funding.  I will have more to write on this later based on the presentation given.

 

 

 

 

Save The Date: November 16th

Eight days after the 2016 elections are over (Thank God!) the Delaware Department of Education will discuss their FY2018 budget with the Office of Management and Budget.  This is open to the public, but I recommend getting there early so you can get a seat.  The budget for the next fiscal year is going to get crazy.  First off, we have the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In Delaware’s first draft plan, you can see that a lot of areas in the law will be depending on state funding.  Which means the feds will have to decide on our state plan assuming these items would pass in our budget.  Delaware is submitting their final plan to the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 6th.  That is 116 days before the Delaware General Assembly would even pass the FY2018 budget.  So what happens if the feds approve our plan but we don’t have the necessary funding allocations for our plan?  The feds would presumably pass (or reject) our plan within 120 days of submission.  That puts Delaware in the position of getting the approval after the end of legislative session.  Not to mention the fact we will have a new Governor (presumably John Carney) with his own ideas on education.  By the time this hearing comes, the next Governor will have been elected.  But further complicating matters is the exiting Governor, Jack Markell.  His administration will work up the proposed budget which won’t be released until January 2017.  And if I know Jack Jack, he will attempt to get all his friends some last-minute goodies!  Add in the fact that pretty much everyone in the state wants to trim down the Delaware Dept. of Education and make it less of a bureaucratic nightmare.  This will be a must-attend meeting if you can make it.  But, of course, it is at 10am in the morning when the true stakeholders in education… students, parents and teachers… are busy doing what they do best.

educbudgetpublichearing111616

 

John King Is Violating Intent Of ESSA By Approving Illegal Flexibility Waivers For Delaware Through 2019

I was wondering why the Delaware Department of Education went to all the trouble of submitting an ESEA flexibility waiver for a dubious standard called the state’s “speaking and listening standards” last March.  ESEA effectively ended on July 31st this year.  Now we know why.  Because it allowed the Delaware DOE to continue the same damaging and disturbing accountability practices for not just this school year, but through the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

This waiver was very odd to begin with.  Yes, there is speaking and listening standards.  It is part of Delaware’s Common Core State Standards.  But to submit an ESEA Flex Waiver for this is ludicrous.  But it doesn’t end there.  The Delaware DOE was not forthright and honest with the process of applying for this waiver.  As part of state code, Delaware is required to have an advisory committee to approve these waivers.  This was the DESS Advisory Committee.  For this waiver, DESS did not meet to approve it.  In fact, as per an email from Susan Haberstroh at the Delaware DOE, the group is not even active at this point.

HaberstrohDESSQuestion

DESS is, however, required under Delaware state code to review the very same things this ESEA flexibility waiver is meant to address:

Title14DESS

Under whose authority did Haberstroh decide DESS did not have to meet to review this flexibility waiver?  This flexibility waiver is illegal in many ways.  There is no state regulation that gives the Delaware School Success Framework any legal enforceability.  Regulation 103, which covers these accountability standards, was not updated last year.  The U.S. DOE has no authority to approve or disapprove Delaware law.  By relying on the United State Dept. of Education to decide on Delaware law, the Delaware DOE is seriously overstepping the will and intent of the Delaware Constitution.

To make things more complicated, U.S. Secretary John King is abusing his authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act by approving any accountability waivers up through 2019.  The Delaware DOE is cherry-picking what they can and can’t do with ESSA, just like John King is.  For John King, when he does this stuff, he gets hauled into congressional hearings.  When the Delaware DOE does this stuff, it gets mentioned on here.  There is no accountability method for the Delaware DOE to answer for their actions.  Someone needs to get the DOE into a public hearing to explain how they can do certain things and not others.  Because the way they interpret the law and the way it must be interpreted are two different things.  Events are progressing rapidly where the Delaware DOE is openly and flagrantly violating state law.  This can not continue and I urge our General Assembly to take immediate and definitive action against our out of control Dept. of Education.

As for U.S. Secretary of Education John King, I have already taken some action on his abuse of power.  I contacted Rep. John Kline (MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) addressing the abuse of power John King is exhibiting by approving this waiver.  As well, I submitted the following to Senator Alexander:

Good morning Senator Alexander,

I am trying to reach you in regards to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Back in March, the Delaware Department of Education submitted a flexibility waiver under ESEA to the United States Department of Education.  This was for a waiver of “speaking and listening standards” as part of our state assessment.  Our Dept. of Education stated this was a “limited waiver” and bypassed parts of our state law for how these things are approved in our state.  While I recognize you have no authority over Delaware state code, I do know you do have authority in regards to the U.S. Dept. of Education and have the ability to call out John King over abuse of power.

On August 5th, 2016, the Delaware DOE received an approval letter from Anne Whelan, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, action on Secretary King’s behalf, to approve our ESEA flexibility waiver. The letter, which can be found on the Delaware Dept. of Education website under “Accountability”, and then “ESSA”, seems to give the U.S. DOE authority to grant flexibility waivers with the same accountability standards under ESEA up through June 30th, 2019.  As I am interpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act, this type of authority was explicitly stripped from the U.S. Secretary of Education.  But John King is openly and publicly defying this federal mandate by continuing the same damaging practices from No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top.

The letter states:

“After reviewing Delaware’s request, I am pleased to grant, pursuant to my authority under section 8401 (b) of the ESEA, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a limited waiver of section 1111 (b)(3)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), for school year (SY) 2016-2017 and of section 1111 (b)(2)(B)(ii) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, for SYs 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 so that the state’s assessment system, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment for grades 3-8 and the SAT for high school, need not measure the State’s speaking and listening standards at this time.

This waiver is granted to Delaware on the condition that it will implement the following assurances:

It will continue to meet for each year of the waiver all other requirements in the ESEA, as amended by NCLB or the ESSA, as applicable, for State assessment systems and the implementing regulations with respect to the State’s academic content and achievement standards and assessments, including reporting student achievement and school performance, disaggregated by subgroups, to parents and the public.”

In addition, by granting this waiver to Delaware, it would allow Delaware to continue accountability rules that have no regulatory approval in Delaware as required by Delaware state code. Delaware has not passed a final Accountability Framework for our public schools because there is no regulation supporting this updated matrix.  As well, the Delaware School Success Framework punishes schools for participation rates below 95% on state assessments.  While ESSA allows states to decide policies and procedures with regard to a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment, Delaware has not done so in any official capacity.  The U.S. DOE is approving this illegal practice in our state which is against the spirit and intent of ESSA.  No state regulations have been approved or are even in the pipeline for approval, and the U.S. DOE is in violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

I implore you, as well as your other Congressional leaders, to hold Secretary King accountable for his very open defiance against the intent of Congress.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

With warm regards,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

Below is the letter sent from Anne Whalen to Secretary Godowsky on August 5th:

Breaking News: Delaware DOE Wants To Revoke Charter Of Delaware STEM Academy

The Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee had their final meeting with the Delaware STEM Academy on June 2nd.  The report came out tonight.  Prognosis: Don’t open the charter school!  The main reason for their formal review was very low enrollment numbers.  How low?  They had 105 students enrolled when they went on formal review a month and a half ago.  In the 45 days since… a whopping 124 according to the below report.  Their charter calls for 250 students.  They had to meet 80% of that.  They are a bit under 50%.

I think the time has come to say we are getting “chartered out” in Delaware.  This isn’t to say they aren’t popular and are growing.  But new charters?  Not so much.  Out of the more recent charter school openings, I would have to say Great Oaks and First State Military School are doing well.  Delaware Design-Lab is going through some growing pains.  Delaware Met got the heave-ho before they could start a third marking period.  Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall was going to move to Dover, but then backed out of that so they would need to reapply if they ever figure out what they are doing.  And now Delaware STEM Academy.  On top of Pencader, Moyer, and Reach Academy for Girls closing.  And Delaware College Prep will close it’s doors at the end of this month.  While this isn’t related at all, I did notice the State Board has not approved any new charters in Delaware since I started blogging just about two years ago…

The State Board of Education bit off more than they could chew when they approved all the new charter schools in 2013 and 2014.  We are seeing what happens when there are too many charter schools, especially in upper New Castle County.  As local districts beef up their programs, there are only so many students that can be choiced out of a school district.  And after Delaware Met, parents up there have to a be a bit cautious.  I am glad to see the Charter School Accountability Committee asking the right questions.  These are things we need to see from the State Board of Education when they vote on new charters.

The final report from the Charter School Accountability Committee is below.  Delaware STEM Academy will have their last public hearing tomorrow night.  Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will make his recommendation to the State Board of Education at the June 16th meeting.  At that point, the State Board of Education will vote to revoke the school’s charter or let them open.  My gut says revocation.  The enrollment is just too low and everything in the below report doesn’t leave much room for error…

 

Delaware Met Students Speak Loud & Clear About Saving Their School

Last Monday, December 7th, the Delaware Met had their final formal review public hearing.  Numerous students spoke out in support of the school, along with teachers, board members, staff, and parents.  Upon reading the transcript, I could not find one negative comment about the school.  Every single speaker, and there were many, wanted the school to stay open.  Many acknowledged the issues but said those situations are getting better.  Do you think the Delaware Met should close or stay open?

The public comment period ending at 11:59pm last evening.  To read through the entire 82 page transcript from the public hearing, please read below:

WEIC Public Hearing At Brandywine Springs Brings A Different Crowd

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission held their fourth public hearing concerning the draft plan for the redistricting of Wilmington schools last night at Brandywine Elementary School.  Shana O’Malley with WDEL wrote about the WEIC draft concerns earlier today.

Something’s broken in the school system and no amount of money is going to fix that.

Many attendees expressed concern with the funding for this initiative in Wilmington Schools and how it will not only affect citizens in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, but the entire state.

“If it’s socioeconomic, something going on in the house, that belongs to social services,” said one parent. “The school district is not in the business of taking care of the mental health aspects of these kids, providing for them. Where are the parents at?”

With the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a section on “Community Schools” where many of these services would be provided.  It is a very fine line in my opinion.  There is a huge difference between the population at Brandywine Springs Elementary and Warner Elementary.  One is out in the suburbs and the other is in the middle of the city.  Is it fair for a more affluent population to protest funding for the low-income populations?  This is the age-old question.  It also gets into the whole school choice issue in Delaware as well, especially up in Wilmington.  Some folks would love nothing more than “government schooling”, the public school system, to go away.  This crowd favors school vouchers to have funding diverted to private schools.  But then on the other end of the spectrum, we have students in Wilmington, usually African-American, who don’t have a complete family unit and live in neighborhoods filled with crime and drug use.  These are two completely different worlds, however, the first world inadvertently helped create the second world through “white flight”.

The speaker asked where the parents are at.  They could both be working.  It could be a single-parent home.  A parent could be in prison or deceased.  But chances are, a parent in Hockessin makes a lot more money than the parent of a child at these Wilmington schools.  If parents are unable to set up mental health services for children, when does the city, county or state need to step in?  It comes down to the haves and the have-nots.  The haves want to keep what they have but the have-nots see what the haves have and want that but are unable to get it themselves.  But here is the key issue: these are children who didn’t write the script here.  This is the world they were born into.  Should inner-city students be denied the things folks in the suburbs take for granted?  This became very evident at Skyline Middle School in Red Clay this fall.  Due to a change in feeder patterns, Skyline took in many students who are considered disadvantaged.  As a result, school bullying increased causing parent outcry at their past couple board meetings.

These are the modern issues of the day.  We have come a long way since the first half of the 20th century when blacks were separated from whites.  We are, and should be, past that.  But economic levers still dictate these kinds of situations from happening in many cities in America.  For any issues like WEIC to work, it is going to take a lot of listening, convincing, and patience.  It will take compromise, from all sides of the issues.  But the big problem here is the timing.  Some of the people behind WEIC are afraid that if the moment passes it will be lost for a generation.  So in a sense, it is being rushed.  During an election year, and even during a gubernatorial election year.  If it comes down to the rich wanting separation and the poor wanting equity, with the dwindling middle class straddling both sides of the issues, we will get nowhere.  And in all of this, are those with disabilities.  Students from low-income, a minority and a disability.  If we keep these children “out” of the public school system in our affluent areas, is that not a form of triple segregation?  We can’t just rely on the status quo in Delaware.  These are deep concerns that affect the viability of our state.  Compared to many other states, we are woefully behind not only in education but also moving away from the past.  In this “me” versus “society as a whole”, I personally choose society.  Because if society isn’t right, I don’t feel I can be in my head knowing I’m not contributing to society.  I know, we all pay taxes.  Some pay more, some pay less.  Nothing in life is free.  We pay for products that constantly go up in price, but complain when taxes go up.  Why?

Delaware Met’s Final Public Hearing Brings Out The Defenders

I received an email from someone who went to the Delaware Met public hearing tonight.  They wished to remain anonymous.  They sent me a very good indication of what the crowd was saying: Save our school!

I went to the MET school public hearing tonight.

All reports I’ve heard: from the News Journal and a student there, were horrible: one kid setting another’s hair on fire; one kid’s head banged into a wall and left a hole in the dry wall; frequent police calls; etc.  In response, the Head of School quit; the Board recommended closing, and then changed their minds;  and the DOE is recommending closing the school on 1-21-16.

But tonight was a love fest.  Only one person from the school’s board spoke; though the guy from the big conglomerate was in the audience.

I was at the hearing from 5:00 – 6:30 and they were still going strong when I left. I didn’t count the number of speakers — probably at least 20.  They were mostly students and  parents.  A couple of teachers spoke, one of whom started work 6 days ago.  Several of the girls were crying; the parents were praising the school, and angry with the State Board.  All thought the school was the best thing ever!  

Most commanding was Councilmember Hanifa Shabazz, who eloquently and angrily “demanded” that the DOE let them know where these 225 students were going to school in January. She and another parent asked to at least extend the closing till the end of the school year. 

A common theme was that the kids had grades of F till they came to this school, and now got Bs. There was also talk about good relationships between students and teachers at the school.  Some students said if they had to go back to a public school, they would probably fail or drop out, or get into trouble again.

None of this addressed the “crime in the school” issue, or the fact that there have already been so many transfers out that the head count is way down, and that could affect financial viability.

If the DOE can’t close a seriously struggling school like this – they can’t close anything.  

But those opposed to the closing have an excellent point – how could the school be approved and accept so many students, without the assurance from the State that it could function effectively?  Can remedial support solve these problems?  That is one of many  questions.

Thank you for sending this to me “anonymous”!  What frightens me the most about all this: no one is talking about special education and how students with disabilities are not having their Free Appropriate Public Education.  For those who don’t know, it’s called FAPE.  It means when you receive special education, you also get FAPE.  But if your IEP isn’t even done, or the school isn’t accommodating your IEP, you are not getting FAPE.  It’s very easy for a crowd to slam the DOE and State Board over “where is my child going to go now” and “this school is so much better”.  I encourage all these parents and community members to read about Delaware Met’s final meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee.  Seriously.  Read it.  These are some key things that make a school work, and Delaware Met isn’t even doing that.  I get the whole community thing and helping each other out.  But this school is dangerous to leave open.  We don’t even know who is running things there now.  Is it A.J. English and his mentoring company? Pritchett and Associates?  Innovative Schools?  Teachers are leaving, and there aren’t many certified teachers left in the building.  It also doesn’t make fiscal sense to send all that money to the school in February when the bulk of the staff aren’t even there anymore.

I completely understand parents being worried about what happens with their child.  I’ve been there, a few times.  And it sucks.  Bad.  But I would rather move my child than keep him in a school that is falling apart.  No matter how much he may love it, I know at the end of the day I have to look out for his best interests.  Delaware Met parents, I have written about MANY schools on this blog.  Many charters.  And trust me when I say that NONE have been anywhere close to the level this school is at.  This is a tragedy beyond measurement.  I blame the DOE and the State Board for many things that I feel are wrong in public education.  But this is one time where they actually got it right.

There is a serious conversation that needs to happen in regards to what oversight the DOE has over charter schools from the time they approve them and when the doors open.  But at the end of the day, the Delaware Met’s board and staff are the ones that failed this school.  Not the DOE, not the State Board, and not the students.  They had a job to do, and unfortunately, they didn’t do it.  You can’t put band aids on a gaping flesh wound.  It may stop the bleeding temporarily, but it doesn’t heal the wound.  Your children deserve much better than this.

The Truth Is Out There With Delaware Met: Public Hearing Transcript Sheds Some Light

The Delaware Met had their public hearing for their formal review on 11/16/15.  Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education released the transcript.  One thing is for sure: the words “blogs”, “blogger”, or “bloggers” were mentioned 8 times in the transcript.  I was glad to see two members of the Delaware State Board of Education attended this event.  Instead of writing about the public hearing, I’m going to let the people speak.

I feel like three months of my son’s education has been wasted because he hasn’t done much work, not many projects

I’ve tried to contact teachers with no response

…when we hear some of the horror stories that are going on with these kids, a lot of times, schoolwork might be the last thing on their mind, because a sibling was just killed three months ago, or they’re dealing with being displaced, you know, homeless.

For whatever reason, they opened the doors up and let a lot of kids in that probably didn’t fit the model and didn’t really understand what the model was.

Whatever bugs you all didn’t iron out first, go back to the drawing board, fix it.  As they say, you got a hole, plug it.

But we don’t get the connection from the people who are in charge, the charter school or whoever is in charge of the charter school, and the parents, there’s no connection.

…the biggest question is who is this management organization, Innovative Schools, and why does it seem that they have been an impediment to this process?  We know that starting something new often is a rocky start, but it seems like the people who are supposed to know about education in this case don’t know anything about education.

It is disturbing that some of the things that should have been in place from the first day still aren’t in place, and we’re still struggling to try to get some open communication.  I think it’s interesting that a lot of parents are here, but I don’t see too many of the administrators.

So I think we need to look into it further versus basing it upon opinions of bloggers and individuals who have not been to the school to visit firsthand to see exactly what’s going on versus reading the emails that are being sent.

I don’t know who blogs.  It has to be somebody in the school.  It has to be somebody in the schools that’s giving out certain information that, you know, that I know some of the students is not giving out, I’m thinking it’s probably one of the teachers that don’t like and are trying to sabotage the whole school.

And whoever the blogger is, they need to mind their own business.  We already know there’s an issue.

Do you all understand how bad that sounds to a kid when they go to school, the teacher says we don’t have to learn because they’re closing the school next year.

Help us out.  Give the school some funding.  You all keep talking about you don’t have money, or whoever, they don’t have money to put this in, put that in.

When you open something up, if you put a different animals in one cage, you’re going to have problems until you get somebody in there that knows how to train everybody.

And again, the story writers, the bloggers, whoever is doing this, saying what they want to say to make it, solidify what you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to close the school down, I mean, of course.

What kind of school around here has a mentoring program?

And I went to Mr. A.J. and he told me that, you know, I can guarantee you the school is not going to shut down and everything like that.

I got at least three trays in one day for lunch, and all the meat was bleeding, but I couldn’t get nothing brown bag.  I don’t understand.  These teachers going out, buying McDonald’s and all that, but we can’t do that because of other stuff.

And we have some teachers that don’t even come to school, and I don’t even know how my report card going to look.  I’m not a bad kid.  I know my report card going to look okay in other schools, but this school, I don’t know.

Okay, what is up with the “blame the blogger” game for a school going on formal review?  Trust me, the Delaware Department of Education is not going to put a school on formal review because of information I write about.  By the time I’m writing stuff, they most likely already know a great deal of the information.  The things I’ve heard coming from this brand new school, that had two years to work out all the kinks, disturb me on many levels.  This is a school that stated their budget for food is going to be over-budget.  If they aren’t cooking the meat correctly and students keep going back for non-carcinogenic food that is actually cooked all the way through, I can see why that would be.  If teachers aren’t showing up or they don’t know how to teach the curriculum, that is troubling.  What kind of school lets other students show up to the school without any type of security system to prevent that?  This school has already received plenty of funding, from the state and from the Longwood Foundation.  Throwing more money at it isn’t going to solve anything.  They will find some way to squander those funds.  Plenty of schools have mentoring programs, and A.J. English knows that.  I am always suspicious of anyone that may have a financial motive to keep a school open.  The school may know about the issues, but parents and the public may not.  That is why I blog.  Do you want to know the words I was looking for the most in this transcript and I didn’t see mentioned anywhere? Special Education, IEP, and disability.  How can you defend a school and not even talk about their biggest problem?  Innovative Schools is in way over their head across the entire state.  Other new charter schools that relied on them are having issues as well.  I don’t want any school to shut down unless it is bad for students in the short-term and the long-term.  I believe Delaware Met fits in both of those categories.

I know some people think I just write whatever I want and call it a day.  That is not the case.  There are things I could write about this school but haven’t yet.  The assumption that I haven’t been in the school must mean I don’t know anything about it.  Wrong.  I know plenty.  I went to their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  I heard the many questions Delaware Met and Innovative Schools couldn’t answer.  These are key and essential questions that need to be answered AND fixed, or they should close.  But let’s get one thing straight, unless the school is posing an immediate health risk or students are in danger, the DOE and State Board of Education don’t just shut a school down.  They go through the process, and the likely options are: probation, revocation of their charter at the end of the year, or they rule the school is doing just fine.  I’ve taken other steps as well in light of things I’ve heard about this school.  It is obvious Delaware Met has sent information out saying “Don’t believe the blogger.”  That is their prerogative.  I just ask folks to keep an open mind and ask the questions.

To read the entire transcript, please read below.

Delaware Met Students Speak Out About Teachers Smoking, Taking McD’s Breaks, & Not Teaching

Last night, the Delaware Met had their formal review public hearing at the Carvel Building up in Wilmington.  About six students and four parents showed up.  The school’s acting head of school, Teresa Gerchman with Innovative Schools, didn’t show up.  Two students gave public comment about their teachers not giving instruction, and frequent “breaks” including smoking, ordering McDonalds, and leaving the school to go to the store.  One parent asked the Delaware DOE to shut the school down, and two others want them to stay open.  I think the students win this one, and I’m glad they had the bravery to speak up about their concerns with the school.  I can’t wait to see this transcript!

Delaware Met Moms, Dads, Students, & Teachers: Make Your Voice Heard!

Monday night is the Formal Review Public Hearing for the Delaware Met.  It starts at 5pm at the Carvel State Building, on the 2nd floor.  It should be easy to get to because it is right next to the school, across the street to the right of the school.  This is the time to let the Delaware Department of Education and the world know what is really happening there.  If you have been bullied, or your kid is not getting the special education they rightfully deserve, or you have not been given due process, or you just have some thoughts to get out, THIS IS THE TIME!!!!  Do not let this opportunity go to waste!

Parents Of Delaware Met Students: If You Are Having Issues, The DOE Wants To Hear From You

As most readers of this blog know, the Delaware Met is on formal review.  And the Delaware Department of Education wants to hear from you!  When a charter school in Delaware goes on formal review, there are two opportunities to be heard: a public hearing or leaving public comment on their website.  The public hearings will be November 16th and December 7th, both at 5pm, at the Carvel Building in Wilmington on the 2nd floor auditorium.  As well, you can give public comment here: https://form.jotform.com/52888685884178?

To give your public comment the weight it deserves, I highly recommend using your real name.  This is your chance to tell your story about your child’s experience with this school.  The DOE needs to hear from every single parent who is not happy with the Delaware Met.

Providence Creek Academy & Campus Community Public Hearing Transcripts

Last Monday evening, the night before the initial meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee for their charter renewals, Providence Creek Academy and Campus Community School had their first public hearings.  Nobody spoke out against either school.  Instead it was stacked with board members, administration, and parents for PCA, and administration and teachers for Campus Community.  Parts of this are very humorous in the attempts to describe students to diamonds and whatnot.  With that being said, I did appreciate a lot of Campus Community’s efforts to help the low-income kids in their school, especially with the weekend backpacks.  That is a great service for kids!  See for yourself:

Final Public Hearings For Freire, Prestige Academy and DE Design Lab Tonight At 5pm, Academy of Dover Tomorrow At 6pm

The Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education is holding the final Public Hearings for Freire Charter School, Prestige Academy and Delaware Design Lab High School tonight in the 2nd floor auditorium at the Carvel Building in Wilmington at 5pm.  Academy of Dover will have their final public hearing tomorrow night at the main Delaware DOE building across from Legislative Hall at 5pm tomorrow in the 2nd floor Cabinet Room.

These are not public hearings where the schools are on trial.  Rather, it gives the public time to give comment on these schools official formal review proceedings.  There is a transcript which is put on the DOE website a couple days after.

I anticipate quite a few of the community members near the new Freire sight to protest this school’s location again.  For Academy of Dover, God only knows what will come out at this hearing!