The address of 920 N. French St. in Wilmington, DE is listed as a “Brownfield Site”. This is also the home of the Delaware Met. What is a Brownfield Site? The Environmental Protection Agency defines a Brownfield Site as:
With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term “brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
On September 11th, 2002, 920 N. French St. was designated a Brownfield Site by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC). In the below report, a plan was put forth and finalized in order to clean up the site to allow for commercial development of the property. Duffield Associates was the company that formulated the plan to clean up the site and remove any contaminants from the soil.
Not long after, MBNA bought the property. When MBNA was bought by Bank Of America, the company soon sold their former employee training center to the State of Delaware for $6.5 million dollars. The State of Delaware bought the property on October 12, 2007. However, the appropriation allowing for the purchase of this building was not approved until the 144th General Assembly on July 1st, 2008, as part of House Bill 525.
Section 31. State Employee Workforce, Education and Training Center. The Section 1 Addendum
14 to this Act contains an appropriation of $6,500,000 for the State Employee Workforce, Education and
15 Training Center, currently owned by the Bank of America. These certain tracts of land are located in the
16 vicinity of 920 N. French Street in the City of Wilmington, New Castle County, and the State of Delaware,
17 being known as New Castle County Tax Parcel numbers 2603520172, 2603520255, 2603520185,
18 2603520190 and 2603520195. For the acquisition of this property, the real property procurement
19 procedures in 29 Del. C. §9505 shall not apply.
For the entire time the State of Delaware owned the building, the property was vacant. Why would a State purchase a property and never use it? In March of 2014, the State of Delaware issued a public notice to any interested buyers of the property. Both The Delaware Met and Freire Charter School were actively seeking the property, and eventually the property was sold to Charter School Development Corporation, under the official company name of CDSCPC 920 French LLC. The address for this company is 6731 COLUMBIA GATEWAY DRIVE, SUITE 220, COLUMBIA, MD 21046. But Charter School Development Corporation is a non-profit company based out of Arizona. The sale occurred on November 14th, 2014, which set into motion a great deal of controversy for Freire Charter School of Wilmington and the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association when Freire was forced to find a new location for their school. There is no public record of how much the State of Delaware sold the building to Charter School Development Corporation. In Fiscal Year 2012, Innovative Schools donated $1 million dollars to Charter School Development Corporation. In FY2014, the company bought 920 N. French St. and leased it to Innovative Schools who is subleasing the property to The Delaware Met.
In Fiscal Year 2015, the Delaware Met paid a considerable sum of money to Duffield & Associates to do work at the property, the very same company that was contracted in 2002 to clean up the soil at the site. From the Delaware Online Checkbook:
All told, Delaware Met paid Duffield Associates $37,654.83 in a seven month period. On The Delaware Met’s original application, Jeff Bross is listed as the Chairman of Duffield Associates and was also listed as a board member of Delaware Met. Interestingly enough, while searching for information about Delaware Met and Duffield, this link came up: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/Errors/AccessDenied.aspx with a message stating the page was inactive or protected and to contact Alison May at the Delaware DOE if you don’t have an account or have any questions. Jeff Bross is still listed as a Board Member at Delaware Met and is still the Chairman of Duffield Associates. 2014 was a busy year for Duffield and Bross as they were also contracted to help with the I-495 Bridge Debacle. So is there a clear conflict of interest with having the Chair of Duffield on the Board at the school while also hiring his company to do an extensive amount of work? Duffield’s expertise seems to be in fixing structural issues at sites where there could be large problems. What was the problem with 920 N. French St.? In the school’s only board minutes posted on their website from October 8th, 2014 there is no mention of pending work with Duffield Associates or a vote to retain their services. Bross attended the meeting. As well, another board member named Richelle Talbert sits on the board at Delaware Met and is also an employee of the school’s charter management organization, Innovative Schools. Surely that is a conflict of interest as well.
These are questions that need to be asked by our legislators and the Delaware Department of Education in determining what in the world happened with this charter school.