Under The Radar, Another Delaware Charter May Go Down Tonight

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.

Family Foundations Major Modification To Move Buildings To Reach Academy, Plans To Increase Enrollment

On June 29th, Family Foundations Academy, a Delaware charter school in New Castle, DE submitted a major modification request to move their elementary school this summer to one of the two buildings formerly occupied by Reach Academy for Girls and wants to move their middle school to the other building at Reach the following year.  They also plan to increase enrollment from 810 to 1100 in a potential modification request to be submitted in the fall.

I check the DOE website on a daily basis, especially the charter school section, and I must have missed this one.  Probably because it was listed under 2014-2015.  As well, I do check their calendar for meetings.  The Charter School Accountability Committee is required to give public notice for any of their meetings.  They held a meeting on Monday, July 13th, and while the information was on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar, my first place to look is the actual calendars on the DOE website, but as I originally wrote in this article there is not a case of non-transparency, just a blogger not looking in all the right places, so my apologies to the CSAC on this one!  My only beef with this is if the decision was going to be made in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, why would they put it under 2014-2015?  I’m sure the answer would be because it was submitted on June 29th, the second to last day of the fiscal year.  No big deal on that.

Below are the application and Charter School Accountability Committee initial meeting report.  Of note, former CSAC member Chuck Taylor is not listed, but  Deborah Wilson with the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League is.  Jennifer Nagourney, Executive Director of the Charter School Office, did inform me Wilson has been a member of the committee for the past few months, and I do see her on some activity from February.  If that name sounds familiar, she was one of the chief civil rights group voices against the opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  I did make a request to Nagourney that the members of the Charter School Accountability Committee be listed on the DOE website with their dates of service.

Looks like there will be two new empty buildings for future charters in the upcoming year…

Federal Judge Renders Verdict On Reach Academy For Girls: Shut Down

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled the Delaware charter school Reach Academy For Girls must be shut down by the end of this school year.  The judge found no change in the school from last year when the school sued the Delaware Department of Education for it’s attempted closure at that point.  Because the charter law will allow for one same-sex school for each gender, the judge ruled in the state’s favor based on that.

That’s two of them closing this year, and the fate of Family Foundations Academy will be decided on Thursday at the State Board of Education meeting.  What could possibly fill in these holes?  Read the article right before this one to see the master plan revealed…

Federal Judge To Decide On Reach Academy 1/14, Last Day of School Choice Deadline

As per WDEL today, a Federal Judge heard the case in regards to the injunction attorneys for Reach Academy For Girls filed in an effort to keep their school open instead of being shut down at the end of this school year.  The WDEL report indicated the judge should have a decision rendered by 1/14/15, the last day of school choice applications for students of Delaware’s public schools.

More information can be found here: http://www.wdel.com/story.php?id=65328

Live From Delaware State Board of Education Meeting: Charter School Decisions

State Board of Education in Delaware is now going over Charter School renewals.  Seven charters are up for renewal this year.  Jennifer Nagourney, director of DE Charter School Office giving introduction.  Talking about the purpose of Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee.

The order of renewals will be as follows: DE Academy of Public Safety & Security, Eastside Charter, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Las Americas Aspiras, Odyssey Charter School, and Reach Academy For Girls.

First up: Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  Recommendation of CSAC: approve with conditions, Murphy: renewal, State Board: Passed 7-0, but President Dr. Gray said yes with reservations.

Eastside Charter School.  Recommendation of CSAC: approve, Murphy: renew, along w/modification to give applicants withing a 5 mile radius of the school preference over those outside of the zone, State Board: renewed.

Family Foundations Academy (this should be good!).  Recommendation of CSAC: approve w/conditions: all board members must get board training, must resolve all compliance issues by end of February 2015, Murphy: Department has received 200 page report regarding gross financial misconduct, Board of FFA asking for 60 day waiver to determine renewal to review, State Board: Heffernan, very disappointed report coming in at the 11th hour, Blowman w/DOE stated 60 days brings them till January 5th, 60 days after CSAC recommendation, Heffernan: Choice can be extended to districts due to good cause, Johnson: asked about lottery dates, said March 20th is date parents need to let charter schools know if accept or not, Heff: trying to make the best of a bad situation, Nagourney: DOE just got forensic audit from Auphsite last Tuesday and immediately had questions, new audit called into question audit by Auphsite, Dr. Gray: not doing anything right now, will take time to investigate and lots of questions that need answers.

Gateway Lab School. CSAC Recommendation: do not renew.  Murphy: We received many public comments during process.  CSAC’s preliminary report and subsequent report bound to use framework process, would be inapproiate to decline renewal but academic framework gives pause for concern, will not accept CSAC’s recommendation w/condition- must meet standards by end of 2015-2016 school year, if doesn’t will put on formal review, Board: going over academic framework and how to compare Gateway students to other schools, (sorry for the delay folks, I know you want to know, me too!), Board member Patrick Heffernan messing this up, basically saying school hasn’t been efficient and proficient, Dr. Gray doesn’t necessarily agree with him, went over something called a DASL report in relation to other schools, Gateway not rated as high, Coverdale brought up comparison metrics, Heff questioning why final recommendation for Gateway says revocation but other ones say formal review, Murphy going over his recommendation again, said will seek revocation through formal review, Board Vote: Gateway renewed, vote count 4 yes, 3 no.

Updated: sorry, had to rush out due to an issue, but here’s how the others went down:

Las Americas Aspiras: renewed

Odyssey: renewed

Reach Academy for Girls: not renewed, will close at the end of  this school year.

Gateway & Reach Try To Save Their Schools @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @nannyfat #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat #savegatewaylab

Last night, several hundred parents, teachers, administrators, legislators and members of the community spoke up about a possible closure for two charter schools in Delaware.  Gateway Lab School and Reach Academy For Girls will have their fate decided on December 18th at the State Board of Education meeting.  Yesterday, people had a chance to give a last plea to the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee.

Gateway Lab School, with their special needs population of around 60%, has a target on their back over standardized test scores.  They are being compared to a regular school district while one of their counterpart charter schools, with less severely impaired special needs students, is compared to other special needs schools in the state.  This puts Gateway at a very distinct disadvantage.

The jam-packed event, with many parents forced to leave due to the filled room capacity, was met with a snafu from the very beginning.  The event, scheduled to start at 6pm, had a rescheduling at 4pm from the Delaware Department of Education.  Gateway was scheduled to go first.

WDEL covered the event, and you can watch their broadcast here: http://wdel.com/features/charterhearing141210.mp4

Public Comment can still be made to the Delaware DOE until the end of the day on Friday December 12th.