I have officially seen it all! Kuumba Academy in Wilmington is planning on having students do a presentation to Capital One to raise money for a playground. Meanwhile, their enrollment has dropped by a fairly big percentage. Continue reading
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced seven arrests and indictments stemming from misuse of funds at the Department of Health and Social Services. Meanwhile, several charter leaders and employees still haven’t been arrested for crimes involving school funds. This has gone on way too long! I’m not buying any more excuses on this. We’ve all seen the audits. We’ve seen the articles. Why aren’t these charter leaders being charged for their crimes Matt Denn? Who is protecting them?
In the article covering the arrests, Denn is quoted as saying:
This case is part of an intensified focus our office is trying to bring to fraud being committed against the state’s public benefit programs.
So public benefits demands an accounting, but school funds are okay? In the case of Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover, which was the first of the charter audits coming out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office last year, nothing has happened. Where is his arrest? And Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy? And the lady from Providence Creek? And what about Sally Maldonado and the maintenance guy at Kuumba Academy? And the board president at Delaware College Prep? And what about what will come out from any future audits coming from the Auditor of Accounts? I like Matt Denn, but it is beginning to look like a bit of a cover-up in terms of not charging these school “leaders”. In terms of Maldonado, why is she allowed to serve on state committees and task forces concerning crucial education decisions but she gets no accountability for what amounts to a raise she gave herself with no board approval?
One of the individuals charged with this theft of funds from DHSS was Kamilah Laws, who was also a contractor with the Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. She was contracted with the DOE during the formal review process for the Delaware Met, which was ordered to shut down in mid-January of this year. Isn’t that interesting? (this corrects an error I previously made in stating that Ms. Laws was on the board at Delaware Met. She was not)
Theft is theft Matt Denn. So I am openly and publicly challenging you to answer these questions: when will the charter leaders and employees who stole money from kids (cause that’s what it comes down to) be held accountable? Will they? Is there any reason why they wouldn’t? Is Delaware law upheld only with certain state agencies?
Not long ago, Sean Moore was at the top of the world. He was a co-Head of School at Family Foundations Academy. Together with Dr. Tennell Brewington they ran a successful school. To the outside world, the school was doing well. It wasn’t at the top of the heap, but it wasn’t at the bottom either. In the Fall of 2014, everything changed when FFA had their charter renewal. Everything came out: the parent complaints, the conflicts of interest between the school leaders and members of the board, and of course, the financial abuse.
A little over a year later, and Sean Moore has the term “finance professional” on his Linkedin account. According to the Auditor of Account’s report, released over a month ago, Moore and Brewington still haven’t paid back all the funds they owe the school. But Moore was able to have enough funds to start his own business, Planet Beach Contempo Spas. He is listed as the franchise owner. Aside from his time at FFA, from July 2008-January 2015, most of Moore’s experience has been in business. In fact, twenty years ago he was an auditor himself!
With all that business experience for twelve years prior to FFA, why would he risk it all by embezzling funds from a charter school? This is just a guess, but I would surmise he was doing it for so long without getting caught he most likely thought he never would be. Like many citizens in Delaware, I am wondering when some type of charges will be announced against Moore and the other charter embezzlers. Academy of Dover’s Ex Leader Noel Rodriguez, Brewington, Moore, and just added to the list last week, Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy. And we haven’t heard anything about those with lower offenses but still considered to be abuse of funds by the State Auditor’s office: Sally Maldonado with Kuumba Academy and the executive director and board president at Delaware College Prep (who will be shutting down at the end of the school year as Red Clay’s board did not renew their charter in December).
I find it ironic Moore is praising his business acumen and starting his own business. I’ve said this a million times, but if it was the average citizen, we would be in jail by now…
A few months ago, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found some red flags with Kuumba Academy in regards to misuse of financial funds with their overpayments to their Head of School, Assistant Head of School, and their Custodian. There wasn’t much that came of it, but upon looking at Kuumba’s October board minutes, I found a very interesting section dealing with this audit.
Raye Jones Avery is the Vice-President of Governance for the board, Sally Maldonado is the Head of School, and Ken Brown is the Vice-President of Facilities for the board. What is so suspicious about the “timing and tone of the report”? Given the splurges at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, it would stand to reason the State Auditor would want to look at charter school spending of procurement cards. I’m not sure what the DSCN is, but I am assuming it was a misspelling of the Delaware Charter Schools Network based on a Google search and seeing several others misspell this abbreviation. This non-profit vehemently opposed Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit legislation, House Bill 186. As well, even if the findings were “out of scope”, of course the auditor’s office is going to do a “scope” around the school’s finances given what has gone on at several Delaware charters. I love the arrogance of some of these charter leaders and board members. They will do anything to escape accountability! They make it seem like this was all some witch hunt. The Auditor’s office found something, and it wasn’t good. Instead of taking your lumps, especially the Head of School who seems to have escaped unscathed from all this, they sit around at a board meeting talking about it. In sharp contrast to this was Providence Creek Academy, who proactively found an issue, reported it to the Auditor’s office, and fixed the problem so it wouldn’t happen again!
And I apologize if I am going “out of scope” on this article, but I couldn’t help but notice the Teach For America and Relay Graduate School love going on at this school in the very same board minutes…
I have to say it is very sad when I see a school debating which teachers are better, TFA or Relay. I will just leave it at that…
Last month, the Delaware Charter Schools Network celebrated their annual IDEA awards. Not to be confused with the Federal IDEA program for special needs students, their IDEA stands for Innovation, Dedication, Education, and Admiration. This years big winners were charter leaders, legislators, teachers, and even students. Here is a list of the winners, direct from the Delaware Charter Schools Network website. I know quite a few of the individuals on this list, either through writing on this blog or actually meeting them before. Some I have never heard of, but congrats on your award. While I have been a teeny tiny bit critical of charters on rare occasions (okay, a lot), at the end of the day, it is about the students. And if the traditional school districts can have a teacher of the year and all that comes with that, the charters should be able to have their own shindig. While I may not agree with many of the funding issues with charters, some of their enrollment practices, financial issues, and special education issues, they are still schools with children in them.
2015 IDEA AWARD WINNERS
COMMUNITY TIES AWARD
Charles S. McDowell, Esquire, EastSide Charter School
Henry Clampitt, The Charter School of Wilmington
GIVING BACK AWARD
Caroline Dowd, Providence Creek Academy
Johnny Means, Delaware Military Academy
Jagger Peck, Gateway Lab School
Eric Long, The Charter School of Wilmington
Hannah Cote, Campus Community Charter School
Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School
Sally Maldonado, Kuumba Academy
IMPACT AWARD TOO
Denise Parks & Kathryn Standish, Odyssey Charter School
Kristen Egan, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy
Kelly Hanson, Providence Creek Academy
Robert Lingenfelter, Delaware Military Academy
Trina Willey, Providence Creek Academy
Great Oaks Charter School Wilmington Founding Tutor Corps, GOCS-W
Cathie Kennedy, The Charter School of Wilmington
Kuumba Academy; Sally Maldonado, School Leader; Joan Coker, Board President
Newark Charter School; Greg Meece, School Leader; Stephen Dressel, Board President
STATE LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Senator Brian Bushweller
Representative Joseph Miro
FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Senator Tom Carper
Senator Chris Coons
Congressman John Carney
Charter school financial abuse. It happens. All the time in Delaware. It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes. These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket. But our State Government allows this to happen. Delaware has no Inspector General. Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass. And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it. State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits. Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no. It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first. Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.
These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District. Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done? These are not elected board members at charters. And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members. Many of the charters websites are a joke. Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up. No charter board records their meetings. No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that. None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time. The average citizen would in a New York minute. But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us. We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.
Let me get one thing straight. I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE. I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools. I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses. The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?” But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it. But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment. It has become a joke. The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools. And the results of all these reports are always the same.
The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group. If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card. If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?
And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.” While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business. Children are not a profit center. They go to school to learn. They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank. They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board. If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education. I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later. And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this. About all this education nonsense in our state. You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell. You answer to the people that elected you. The people are sick of the abuse and scandal. And we are waking up. Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong. It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something. Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January. Stop the fraud playing out in our state. Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.
*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats. The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.