Campus Community Loses Appeal In Federal Court Over Special Education Lawsuit

McAndrews Law Firm, a special education law firm with offices in Delaware, recently won a special education lawsuit that went all the way up to federal court.  I imagine the price tag, once calculated, will be very steep for Campus Community School, a charter school in Dover. Continue reading

Greg Meece Stumbles In The Dark Trying To Explain Settlement (Again) To NCS Parents But Shines A Light On The Truth

New details emerged in the never-ending Christina-Delaware Department of Education-15 Charter Schools lawsuit/settlement thanks to Newark Charter School leader Greg Meece.  I guess now that the ink is dry on the settlement, people can say whatever they want, right Greg?  We shall see!

From the Weekly Bulletin sent to Newark Charter School parents yesterday afternoon:

Follow-up on the settlement letter

This will provide additional information and clarification about the recent settlement of the lawsuit filed by NCS and 14 other charter schools over what we considered to be funding errors which cost charter schools – and their students – a fair amount over the years. Because we are satisfied with the agreement reached over local funds and pleased with the new level of transparency created by the agreement, we are happy to offer the following clarifications:

– We stated that the general idea is that the property taxes paid by residents, which are initially held by the local school districts, should follow the child when families choose to enroll their children to a public charter or choice school in Delaware. We believe that, for whatever reasons, in the case of Christina School District (CSD) that was not being done. But we also concede that, as in most settlements, the district admitted no wrongdoing.

– We stated that the August decision was made by the Secretary of Education. Actually, the August decision was made by other Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) executives and Secretary Godowsky was not involved until later. In September, he reversed his Department’s earlier decision and we sued. 

– Finally, we said that “both CSD and DDOE agreed to cover the cost of the charter schools’ legal costs.” Let us clarify. In the complaint filed in court, we demanded an award of attorneys’ fees. During the negotiations, we pressed that same demand. The resulting agreement, while not mentioning the subject of attorneys’ fees, provides for a one-time payment of $150k from each defendant. Naturally, the plaintiffs are free to spend that one-time payment as they see fit and have decided to pay their legal fees with it, and we have been told that both DDOE and CSD are paying that amount directly to the charter schools’ attorneys. We are told, in CSD’s case, that payment is funded from “true-up” funds created by a switch in the method of calculating the share going to charter schools.

We hope these clarifications resolve any confusion about the settlement and want to reiterate its essence: both sides agreed to a sharing of local revenues that each believes represents fair compromise and charters will now be given the information in coming years to assure that fairness continues. We are pleased that the Department and CSD have approved the settlement and look forward to working with each in the future.

Ah, Greg Meece, you are crafty.  That is for sure!  So if I understand this correctly (as well as the thousands of readers who are probably sitting with a dropped jaw right about now), Secretary Godowsky did NOT know about the changes to the local funding formula.  Which is one of his job duties, to approve that formula by September 1st.  But one could presume, if no changes were presented to him, there would be nothing to approve if the old formula was used.  So can someone please tell me why the 15 charters named Godowsky personally in the lawsuit if they knew he did nothing wrong?  And it’s not like this is new news.  State Rep. Earl Jaques confirmed this in an email I published three months ago.

Greg Meece, are you telling me your attorneys willfully put something in a lawsuit they KNEW wasn’t true?  Or was this oh-so-little detail discovered after the lawsuit was filed?  Either way, it would have come up before the settlement was written.  But the settlement specifically gives details about Godowsky back-tracking on his decision.  But it was never a decision he made to begin with.  So this ENTIRE mess went down because Delaware Dept. of Education officials neglected to give their State Cabinet-level superior information that IS IN STATE CODE and they only have to pay $150,000 to the charters for “whatever they choose but we planned it ahead of time to pay the attorney fees“.  This seems VERY convenient.  Too convenient.  If this is not the very definition of a shakedown, I don’t know what is.  Maybe Secretary Godowsky should sue the fifteen charter schools for a frivolous lawsuit.  And Bob Silber.  And the Christina School District.  The only way Meece can say this wasn’t Christina’s fault is because of the nature of settlements.  People try to tell me what a great guy Meece is.  I don’t see it.  Someone who is okay with playing games with tens of thousands of student lives, staff members, educators, and taxpaying citizens is not in my definition of a good guy.

So we have Greg Meece, the same guy who got this snowball rolling down the hill to begin with, openly admitting this was all the DOE’s fault, but he is glad Christina and the charters could come up with a mutual agreement?  Are you out of your damn mind Meece?  So why was Christina even named in the lawsuit to begin with if this was all a colossal screw-up by the DOE?  IF I were the attorney for this, the only legal option would be to go after the DOE.  UNLESS I was already planning on a settlement.  With some other easter eggs thrown in for good measure.  Things like the tuition and match taxes.  Opening the door for them.  Very smart.  Very shady.   Very Delaware.  And 4 out of 7 Christina board members fell for it.  For now.  There is still some information that hasn’t come out yet Greg.  But I know it.  And it will.  Good luck with THAT weekly bulletin Greg!  But I do want to thank you for reading my article I put out last Monday based on your last missive to the NCS parents.  Had I not put that article up, would you be bending over backwards trying to “clarify” things with NCS parents?  I tend to doubt it.

To read the FULL NCS Weekly Bulletin, and learn all about the have to see it to believe it “Hour Of Code”, see below.

The Peculiarities Of The Charter School Lawsuit

wheelsonthebus

It struck me, as I awoke today at 5:30am, that some things involved with the charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE, that the charters were well aware of a simple fact.

Christina did not pass two referenda in 2015.  As a result, their funding from Christina was going to be less per student than what it had been last year.  With referendum, it doesn’t really kick in until the next school year.  You still have to get the taxes from the people.  So they were all warned.  They knew their payments would be less.  This is why Greg Meece became desperate, searching for needles in a haystack.  Anything to get mo money.  It’s kind of like a scientific experiment.  You want to turn air into gold.  You know it won’t work, but you keep trying.  So Meece began his journey last winter, looking for anything to justify his school getting more money.

He had help.  Of that I am nearly certain.  Someone had to give him something to look for.  Whether he searched out that person or they came to him is a matter of debate.  Meece also knew he had big financial issues coming up if he didn’t get that money.  This school year was the year his long-held dream came to fruition: a K-12 school.  His students would finally become seniors.  But if he was getting less per student, who would pay for these rising costs to run NCS?

Out of all the 15 charter schools who filed suit, NCS has the most to gain.  But do you want to know who will most likely get the most money, if they should prevail?  Saul Ewing LLP.  The attorneys always make out like bandits!

Another thing struck me.  I’ve been very hard on David Blowman through all this.  But if the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education is the one that sends the charter bills to the districts, and Blowman was attempting to make some type of course correction from previous years, then who was the one sending the prior charter bills?  Last winter, David Blowman and Karen Field-Rogers switched places at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Blowman used to be the Deputy Secretary of Education.  Field-Rogers was the Assistant Deputy.  Which means she was the one sending the charter bills to the districts all those years.  Or at the very least, signing off on them.  I’m sure I could go back years and years on this, all the way back to 2008 which seems to be this critical flashpoint for the charters.  I’m sure there were others.  Under that theory, if Christina submitted exclusions to the DOE and the DOE signed off on them, the case against Christina is gone.  This is all on the DOE, not Christina.  Legally, it doesn’t matter if the DOE should or shouldn’t have approved those exclusions, the simple fact remains that they did.

Here is another one.  Godowsky didn’t know about this until after the charter bills went out.  So why is Godowsky named in the lawsuit?  He inherited another DOE employee’s mess.  But Godowsky’s job, as per Delaware law, is to either change the formula or have it remain the same, by September 1st of each year.  The local funding formula did not change.  Because e=mc² no matter what the variables are in each part.  So Godowsky didn’t change the formula after September 1st, he changed the amount based on the already existing formula which he didn’t even know about until after it was done to begin with.  There is a huge difference.  I know, I’m defending the Delaware Secretary of Education here, but I do believe in fairness.

But here is the kicker.  If the charters win, they stand to get a bucketload of money, right?  Which would cause Christina to most likely seek another referendum.  Which would give the charters even more money based on the court-approved decision with the exclusions.  But if Christina lost that referendum, the charters would get less money the next year (like what happened to them this year based on the 2015 failed referenda).  Or, if they put Christina into such a financial pickle the State of Delaware had to bail them out, they would then be relying on getting funding from the same entity they sued.  But if the Christina School District went bankrupt, and the state took them over or converted the whole district to charter schools, and the state only gives so much to each district or charter, what would happen to the 15 charters share of local funding if the local district isn’t there anymore?  They would wind up with less money.  Or even better yet, if WEIC goes through and the Christina Wilmington schools convert over to Red Clay before this goes to court, would they then have to include Red Clay in the suit even though Red Clay’s local funding to charters is different?  I don’t think they thought this through long-term.  I can’t believe the “charter school Don” as Kilroy puts it even took this case.

If their “smoking gun” is what I think it is…good luck with that one 15 charters!  Meanwhile, the wheels on the bus go round and round…

Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning: How The Lawsuit Against Christina And The Delaware DOE Happened

On September 2nd, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and Assistant Deputy Secretary David Blowman met with Greg Meece, Stephen Dressel, Joanne Schlossberg, Chuck Taylor, Margie Lopez-Waite, Kendall Massett, and William Manning at Newark Charter School.  The last name is important because William Manning is the lead attorney in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education.  William Manning is a partner at Saul Ewing LLP, which also happens to be the lead charter school attorney law firm.

Delaware charter schools, especially ones alleged to “cherry-pick” students, have long complained about not getting their rightful share of money while at the same time they constantly boast how they “do more with less”.  In fact, Manning complained about this to the U.S. Congress back in 2000, as I wrote in an article last year:

I believe, as do many of you, that charter schools are already improving the educational landscape by offering variety, quality and single-school focus to those who previously had to pay to get those things. That’s the good news. The bad news is that charter schools are still regarded by the educational establishment in some quarters as the enemy. Thus, the organization that owns our school buildings is sometimes stingy with them when it comes to housing charter schools. Nor do the funding formulae in many state charter school bills provide adequate capital- as opposed to operating- assistance to charter schools. Please don’t overlook them.

Manning served as the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education when the original Delaware charter school law was written in 1995.  But where this gets more interesting is Manning’s very direct tie with the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  His wife, Martha Manning, created the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  She is also on the boards of Innovative Schools and the Red Clay Education Foundation.

Martha Manning stepped down from the Delaware Charter Schools Network in 2006, but her husband is still heavily involved with Saul Ewing LLP.  It was not a coincidence he was called in for the Sept. 2nd meeting at Newark Charter School, mentioned above.  Chuck Taylor is the Head of School and Providence Creek Academy, the President of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and a member of the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Margie Lopez-Waite runs Las Americas ASPIRAS.  And Kendall Massett… good old Kendall… who gave a presentation at the State Board of Education meeting last month on, of all possible things, charter and district collaboration.  The irony is still astounding!  Kendall gave a quote to the News Journal yesterday:

Kendall Massett, director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said in a prepared statement, “We applaud the state Department of Education for recognizing the out-of-proportion exclusion requests from Christina School District this year and for taking steps to bring them in line, in the interest of fairness for students and to make the process consistent among all districts. But that decision was reversed after the deadline mandated by state law.”

Whatever Kendall!  Many decisions were made without full clarity.  In fact, the whole process beginning with the NCS Trio getting a meeting with David Blowman wasn’t readily shared with all district financial officers.  In fact, we can see how the Delaware DOE actually blew off Robert Silber when he asked the DOE why they wanted a list of district exclusions.

This was why State Rep. John Kowalko submitted a request to Secretary Godowsky in early September for a list of who was involved and specific dates.  Godowsky did provide that timeline and specific names to Rep. Kowalko on September 20th.  Rep. Kowalko asked me to share this with the public so that everyone knows what the specific timeline was and who was involved in each step.  In addition, there are several emails from the Delaware DOE to charter and school leaders.


From: May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 10:45 AM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Cc: Godowsky, Steven (K12)
Subject: information request

Rep. Kowalko,

Please find answers embedded in red below as well as attached copies of email correspondence in response to your questions.

I need to know the details of the meeting in April which was attended by Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel and David Blowman, with a list of anyone else who attended that meeting, whether from DOE, State Board, or other (for instance the DE Charter Schools Network, etc.). I would like to know if any legislators attended that meeting. I am also asking if there were additional meetings with any smaller groups discussing this matter and who were attendees. I want to know if there were any unannounced meetings w/CFOs or Superintendents regarding this issue. I realize the DOE has monthly meetings, usually separate, with all the charter and district CFOs. Has anyone else attended these meetings?

Those four were the only ones at the meeting, which occurred at the request of the school.

Please send me a timeline of events, including:

When the CFOs were notified about submitting a list of excluded information (in May as I’ve been made aware by one district) and whether the notification went to all districts and when was that list due.

                *Discussed at April 8 Business Managers meeting (see agenda from April 7 email attached)

                *Follow-up email sent May 25 (see attached)

                *Christina response received June 8 (see attached)

Which individuals took part in the decision-making process regarding which exclusions were allowable or not allowable by DOE

                *David Blowman, Brook Hughes and Kim Wheatley

When (specific date needed) the new allowable exclusion list was sent to CFOs/Superintendents

                *August 8 (see attached)

When (specific date) charters were notified so they could send their bills to DOE to send to districts

                *August 12 (see attached)

When (specific date) DOE sent those bills to the districts

                *August 16 (see attached)

When Bob Silber (Christina CFO) was notified of the exclusion issue with Christina

                *See above dates

Please send a list of all persons that attended the meeting at Newark Charter last week.  Steve Godowsky, David Blowman, Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, Stephen Dressel, Margie Lopez-Waite, Bill Manning, Chuck Taylor, Kendall Massett

As you can surmise I expect a list of any and all attendees at any meeting discussing this issue. Please send an accurate report of this information to me as soon as possible.

This also was discussed with superintendents at their September 1 Chief School Officers Association (CSOA) meeting at POLYTECH.

And this is what the Delaware DOE sent to State Rep. Kowalko in terms of email discussions concerning this issue.  Note the absence of any emails from the Newark Charter School trio to anyone at the DOE prior to April 8th when they would have requested the initial meeting with Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman.

In the complaint against Christina and the DOE, it states the charters want a full accounting of what funds were excluded from the local payments to charters going back to 2008.  Why 2008?  At that time, the Superintendent of the Christina School District was Lillian Lowery.  Shortly after Governor Markell’s first inauguration in 2009, Lillian Lowery was confirmed by the Delaware Senate to become the Delaware Secretary of Education.  The looming question is what was signed off on back in 2008 and 2009 by the Delaware DOE.  Obviously, NCS feels this is some type of crucial timeframe which pertains to the lawsuit.  But the even bigger question is who was giving them information and why.  I’ve heard some wild tales about that timeframe.  But until I am able to confirm anything, I will remain mum.