After the State Board of Education put Odyssey Charter School under formal review last night, school leaders wrote a letter to the Odyssey community with a response. In addition, I got my hands on the school’s response to Leroy Travers, the leader of the Charter School Office over at the Department of Education!
Kathleen Davies, a Democrat candidate for Delaware State Auditor, issued an official press release today about the very controversial News Journal article that appeared online and in print over the past couple of weeks. This answers many questions I’ve had and confirms many suspicions I’ve harbored over this matter. Continue reading Breaking News: Kathleen Davies Issues Press Release On Slanted News Journal Article
Project Veritas released a video on May 2nd about a teacher union president that clearly shows him admitting the union will lie and manipulate to protect a teacher in a student abuse situation. The responses from the union president are shocking. Even more shocking are the responses from the Delaware State Education Association and the National Education Association to help members deal with this video. I am putting the video up which you can see below. Continue reading Who Protects Kids When Teacher Unions Won’t? The DSEA and NEA Response To Shocking Video Is Horrendous!
On February 28th, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to every single Delaware school district and charter school. The ask? Every single employee with an annual salary over $100,000. I based it on that specific number because I know pretty much every single assistant principal and up (with a few exceptions) makes over $100,000. One of the key questions in Delaware education is “Do we have too many administrators?”. This comes up every single time the state budget conversation heats up or a district goes out for a referendum. Continue reading Prologue: The Big FOIA About Salaries
I’ve seen some arrogant stuff from charter schools in my day but this one takes the cake! Separating herself from the rest of the Board of Directors, Margie Lopez-Waite must be thinking her name adds extra oomph to the struggling Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. Yes, being a Chairperson or President of any school board does give you a certain amount of power and responsibilities, but to distance yourself from the other equal board members is not a good idea. It makes the rest of the Board look weak in comparison. I’ve seen many charters where the head of the Board calls the shots. The rest of the Board winds up becoming a rubber stamp.
For Queen Margie, she has gained absolute control at the school. Obviously they need something since they are on formal review but I would prefer like-minded people working together as opposed to this self-created hierarchy.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security came out with their response to the initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting. We learned Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting turned down the school’s request to submit a major modification to reduce their numbers. That makes sense since you can’t do that when you are on formal review. The school also made an attempt to compare their test scores to area high schools and show they really aren’t that bad when you compare them like this.
Since their modification won’t happen, that means they can’t switch their location for this school year or even next school year if they remain open by that time. That means they have to renew their lease with Fatima, the church that holds the lease on their building. Given that the school is at least $184,000 in the hole, this spells trouble. My sense is they are deeper in the hole than suggested but they found a way to hide it. Even though THIS WAS DISCUSSED AT THEIR FIRST MEETING WITH CSAC.
We also learned their teaching staff has some glaring holes in it. Out of their eight core teachers, three are on emergency certificates, two are vacant positions, and one has an initial license. What does that mean? This school’s teaching population is not up to snuff. 75% of them are not fully certified teachers.
Does Herb Sheldon make $185,000 as Principal of this school? According to their proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year, that’s what it looks like. I hardly think a school of 200 students needs a Principal making THAT much money. Especially since he has NO academic background aside from human resources at another charter school.
What disturbed me the most about this school was their attrition rate with special education students. If you look at the below graph, you can see the number of students with disabilities dropping considerably each year as they go on to their next grade. What happens to these students? Are they counseled out? Expelled? Or do parents just say enough is enough and pull them out? Where are these students going when they leave DAPSS? To other charters or back to their regular feeder pattern? For their Grade 9 that started last year, they were at 32.9% special education. This year, those students in 10th grade are at 0% special education. What happened to those 25 students on an IEP? Same with the 9th graders that started in 2014-2015. In two years, they went from 27 IEPs to 16 to none. For a school that boasts about being able to handle high-needs students, I’m not seeing it! To begin training on special education law at a state and federal level before the 2018-2019 school year does NOT show a commitment to these students. That training should be going on NOW!
I love how the school talks about all the programs brought about by their former Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, who is no longer with the school. Way to take someone else’s work and make it your own!
To read the pitiful response from the school, please see below. To read the appendices mentioned in the report, please go here.
Last Spring, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act complaint against Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school, to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office. As any regular reader of this blog is aware, I frequently review meeting minutes for charter schools and school districts. What I saw in the March minutes for Gateway Lab School shocked me. Not so much from what they did, but the fact our Attorney General’s office released similar opinions on these kind of matters in the seven months prior to this. I bear no ill will towards Gateway or their board. I have always commended this charter school for servicing students with disabilities as the bulk of their student population. I was among the majority who felt the Charter School Accountability Committee’s 2014 recommendation to shut the school down was absolutely ridiculous, especially when that decision was based on standardized test scores.
After I filed the complaint, myself and Gateway went back and forth via email on the complaint. During that time, I found another similar action by the Gateway board. While I had some pains submitting the original complaint because of my loyalty for a special needs school, I felt it was important for them to correct this action. Did they? And how did the Attorney General’s office rule on my complaint? Find out below!
I reached out to Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and Assistant Deputy Secretary David Blowman about the Freire Charter School Opt Out/Smarter Balanced Assessment/Final Exam scandal. Apparently, the Delaware Department of Education thinks it is perfectly acceptable for students to earn an A for tests they never took.
While I won’t release the full email chain since I would betray a source, I can say it is one of the most disrespectful and insulting emails I have ever received from the Delaware DOE. What offended me the most was how Blowman wrote his response, as if this is a common occurrence and it is A-Ok.
I must have been sniffing glue to think the Delaware DOE would take this matter seriously and actually, for once, do the right thing. But no, they turn it around with Blowman’s cocky and arrogant “historically common” and “educationally appropriate”. So every single parent in Delaware knows, the Delaware DOE does NOT give a crap about what actual grades a student gets in classes, JUST the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They don’t care if a student could be failing a course, but an unearned A on a final exam could cause them to pass a class. Because the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the true measurement, right assholes? Social promotion is okay as long as we get that participation rate, right Blowman?
I am DONE with this Department. DONE. As if their fraudulent Teacher Leader Pilot program I wrote about yesterday wasn’t bad enough, I get this unbelievable spit-in-parents face email. Because it is okay if a school changes grades. It’s okay if they offer sweetheart deals to parents to manipulate them out of opting their child out of a test that doesn’t give any true instructional feedback, parents don’t know the scores until after the school year ends, and it violates a parent’s constitutional, God-given, and fundamental right to decide what is best for their own child.
Is the DOE calling final exams unnecessary? The tests that actually show what a student may or may not have learned the entire year in a class, unlike the Not-So Smarter Balanced? Really Blowman? Are you out of your Kool-Aid drinking mind? We know this isn’t in statute or regulation because our corrupt Governor cares more about companies than students. If the situation were in reverse, like a parent wanted to opt their child out of a final exam, but the school said “How about we do this: let your child take the final exam and one of our teacher leaders will take the Smarter Balanced Assessment for your kid,” the DOE would be at that school pretty damn fast. It’s the same thing Blowman! By giving a student a false grade, you are teaching that student it is okay to manipulate the system. By allowing schools to do it you are showing all you care about is a high-stakes test. If that is the DOE’s definition of college and career ready, I weep for the future.
I truly don’t care if the DOE never gives me information again because of this article. I truly don’t. Not with the complete idiots in charge over there. From now on, everything will be a FOIA or a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education. So teachers, who I do respect immensely (except for those who do the suck-up dance to the DOE), please let me know of any “sweetheart” deals your administrators are pulling on students. Parents as well. Because this is sick. This is what our education governance has come down to: immoral and unethical practices coming all the way from the top and THEY ENDORSE IT. Just because something isn’t written in Title 14 doesn’t make it right Blowman. Don’t you dare try to pull that crap on me. Did you really think my response to this would be “Okay, dead issue.” This email could have easily said “We at the Department do not agree with the inappropriate actions taken by Freire with parents.” Instead, I’ll bet they got a high-five for their most excellent anti-opt out tactics.
I used to treat some DOE employees with kid gloves in the past. I’m done with that. You have spit on parents and their rights, manipulated teachers and their best interests, and lied to the public for the last time Delaware DOE. You have invited the opt out wrath that is coming your way in the 2016-2017 school year.
For my readers, I apologize for my harsh language in this article. But I feel it is necessary because there are no other accurate words that best sum up my thoughts on our Department of Education. We sit here in Delaware and pretend this is okay. Why aren’t parents and teachers standing up in mutiny at every single State Board meeting and picketing the Delaware DOE office? We allow this by doing nothing. If you think anything I write in this blog makes ANY difference, it is marginal at best. They won’t do a damn thing until they see parents rising up in massive numbers. And if some of our schools or the Department that is supposed to oversee our schools think lying, fraud, cheating, manipulating, brainwashing, stealing and disrespecting our children and those charged with teaching them, you need to do something about it.
I’m sure the DOE will do something that will piss me off more than this. I have no doubt. This is why we pay them the big bucks with no oversight. So they can screw over every possible person who doesn’t conform to their Rodel/Markell ass-kissing agendas. And for those who think you are at the table, you aren’t. And it isn’t a nutritious meal. You are ON THE TABLE and they are eating you alive and you are letting them do it. I don’t want to hear one more word about the cannibalistic Delaware Way (except the very excellent Delaware Way blog- shameless plug).
The Brandywine School District in Delaware will face their 2nd referendum attempt this year on May 17th. Frequently in Delaware, referenda in Delaware has supporters and non-supporters. I posted a video earlier today from Brandywine parent Pat Wahl. The below document refers to a Brandywine employee who emailed the entire district last weekend with what the district claims is inaccurate information. Brandywine responded to the email with a document defending some of the allegations. While Mr. Wahl did make some similar claims in his video, what was addressed in this document was in direct response to the email sent from the district employee. I have not seen the original email. Nor have I seen an official response to Mr. Wahl’s video at this point. I imagine it would be a long response since that video clocks in at over 23 minutes!
At 1:30pm tomorrow, the Delaware Met will appear before the Charter School Accountability Committee to answer questions surrounding their Formal Review. At the October Delaware State Board of Education meeting, the board unanimously agreed to placing the brand new charter school on formal review two months after they opened. The school wrote a response to the allegations surrounding the Formal Review.
The school has also submitted many documents, which can be found here. But I thought a peak at the financial information they submitted to the DOE is warranted for this article. These documents confirm their current enrollment at 218 students.
Also in these documents are charts showing which traditional school districts their students are coming from along with their estimated unit counts for funding from Delaware:
Last week, Wilmington Mayor Williams and the police went to the school to address matters as well. An advocate well known in Wilmington by the name of CEO Hope attended as well. This will be a very interesting meeting tomorrow as a formal review this early in a charter school’s history is unprecedented. Note to attendees: there is no public comment at these meetings. That will occur on November 16th, and this is listed on this blog’s Education Meetings and Events page:
11/16: Delaware Met Formal Review Public Hearing, 5pm, Carvel State Office Bldg., Auditorium, 820 N. French St., 2nd Floor, Wilmington
The final recommendation by the Charter School Accountability Committee will not happen until their 11/30 meeting. After that, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will submit his final decision to the State Board of Education at their December 17th meeting where the board will vote for final action.
On March 26th, Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s office for a release of all of the Governor’s state email addresses or any private email addresses he may use for state business. The below was the response, sent by Markell’s attorney, Andrew H. Lippstone. Kowalko has informed me he will have a response to this later today.
It has been two weeks since I responded to Rodel CEO Paul Herdman’s email to me about my Rodel article (this one: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/delaware-race-to-the-top-hedge-funds-millions-wasted-the-story-of-rodel-markell-charters-the-vision-network-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-dwablog-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-delawarebat/ and https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/rodels-ceo-dr-herdman-sent-an-email-re-rodel-article-my-response-challenge-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax/ ). I asked Paul Herdman to meet me at the six priority schools and Gateway Lab School to explain Rodel’s hedge fund activity and other discrepancies I found. Mr. Herdman has not bothered to respond at all. But I have heard he was very upset about the article and many people at Rodel and the Vision Network were sent an email about it. I have yet to see the email, but my invitation to Mr. Herdman still stands. Your call Paul. In the meantime, if my next article on Rodel occurs before you accept my invitation, feel free to address any irregularities I have found on that one as well.