Delaware Met’s Appalling Response To The DOE Raises Even More Questions

In spite of a very intensive hiring process, we were unable to find many teachers with urban experience or a familiarity with the local community and those that we did hire were from charter schools that had closed such as Moyer Academy. Those teachers brought with them the “alternative school” mentality, along with lingering conflicts from the past years, which perpetuated the punitive, authoritarian mindset, which is the antithesis of the BPL design. We had hoped that the past relationships with the students would have a positive effect on their relationships with students, though this was not the case.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse with Delaware Met, I ran across many updated documents on the Delaware Department of Education Charter School website regarding their formal review.  The number one issue at this point seems to be their enrollment.  If they were approved for 260 students, and they must maintain 80% of that as required by Delaware law, that would be 208 students.  As of their September 30th count, they had 215 students.  In these documents, they announced four more students have withdrawn since 9/30, and six more will withdraw from the school very soon.  This puts their enrollment at 205.  They are now completely out of compliance with their charter.

The letter from the Delaware DOE’s Exceptional Children’s Resources Group is very telling.  59 IEPs were looked at by the DOE, and ALL 59 are out of compliance.  Delaware Met’s Special Education coordinator, Sue Ogden, used to work in the Delaware prison system as a special education coordinator, so she should be well aware of DOE timelines and what is needed in student’s IEPs.  While the below documents give many reasons for the school challenges, I still can’t help but think many of the events at this school could have been avoided.  It is now near the end of November, and NONE of the IEPs are in compliance as of November 25th.  This does not bode well for students with disabilities at this school which now represent over 28% of the school population.  Furthermore, in the narrative in the documents below, there is talk about going through 80 IEPs.  Have 21 students with disabilities who had IEPs left the school?

For their in-school suspension, students are required to write the following:

DelMetBehaviorLesson

And another “behaviour lesson”:

DelMetThinkingAboutBehavior

Now, with a school filled with at a minimum, 59 IEPs, and admitted issues on teacher parts where they treated a school like an “alternative” school, are the in-school suspensions warranted?  I can’t answer that, but I do know in-school suspension does not count towards a manifestation determination hearing.  Only out-of-school suspensions or expulsion.  And is it just me, and I get the whole concept of restorative justice, but isn’t the point of school discipline already a punishment?  What could a student do to “make up to the school” for their behavior?  What if they have a disability and it was a manifestation of their disability and they don’t even realize it was a “behavior”?

This “in-school suspension room”.  I have some big issues with it.  It seems like an easy solution to stop discipline problems.  Student gets in trouble, send them to the ISS room.  The below documents also state their special education coordinator, Sue Ogden, will make sure accommodations are being followed while students are in there.  But is one of their accommodations to be sent to an ISS room if they get in trouble?  There are more questions than answers here.  Sue Ogden, as I stated earlier, used to work in the prison system.  Even with all its issues and students with potential legal issues, the Delaware Met is not a prison.

The Charter School Accountability Committee will meet with Delaware Met for their final formal review meeting next Tuesday, from 8:30-10:00am.  At this point, the committee will determine their recommendation for the school.  The Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education will decide the school’s fate at the December State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.  In the meantime, read the below documents to find out the school’s interpretation of events.  I still have this nagging feeling there is much more going on at this school…

Delaware Met response to Charter School Accountability Committee

Specific Information requested by the Charter School Accountability Committee

Exceptional Children Resources Group monitoring and letter sent to Delaware Met

Teachers Emails regarding Science and Social Studies Curriculum

Board of Directors questions to Innovative Schools with response from them

 

 

Delaware Met Teacher Comes Out Swinging In Defense Of The School

Yesterday, a commenter on a Delaware Met post finally broke the silence coming from the embattled charter school!  She has some very interesting things to say.

Kevin,

I am a teacher at the Delaware Met. I am going to use this comment space, to tell you about myself. After reading and sharing details about my long career in education, I am hoping you will use myself and other dedicated teachers to gather your information. Hopefully after reading my post you will feel more comfortable the staff at the Delaware Met in partnership with Innovative Schools and Big Picture Learning has the resources, talent and passion to create a better alternative for the students who selected the school as an alternative to the current offerings in New Castle County.

Clearly I have led a long career learning how best to serve underserved students.

After graduating from the University of Delaware Number 1 in my class and Student Teacher of the Year , I have worked for A.I Dupont High School; Ursuline Academy as the Swim Coach, Track Coach and Department Chair; been an instructor at the University of Delaware in teaching Social Studies and Science Methods for the Education Department; been the Achievement Director at a school with 90% Free and Reduced Lunch that was a Superior School ( 8 years); won two Super Star in Education Awards; attended a conference for the top 100 Charter Leaders in the Country; been a math instructional coach for several high poverty schools in Hawaii; participated on a team with John Chubb and Benno Schmidt, the former President of Yale, developing a curriculum for 400 principals in Abu Dhabi; paid out of pocket to take all the required courses and earned a degree in School Leadership at Wilmington University; paid extra money to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education Principal Academy for Urban School Leadership; interviewed 1,000 men under the age of 21 incarcerated at Gander Hill; developed 250-300 IEP’s for students at Gander Hill that had not reached the age of 21; personally delivered services to the most difficult offenders including decoding and basic reading support for students in solitary confinement; served as the Director of a STEM Camp in the remote desert above the Saudi Arabian oasis teaching girls how to fly drones and program semi-conductors; personally travelled to all of the high achieving Charters in New Jersey and above and interviewed all of the staff about best practices- I choose the Delaware Met to finish the last 3-5 years of my career.

Let me know if you still think I am unqualified. I have 1000% confidence in the team, the model and the staff to make significant changes in the opportunities for the students in our town. If you want more information, please contact me directly at susiemurphyogden@yahoo.com.

Let me see if you post this- and then I will follow with additional information.

To which I responded:

Sue, thank you for reaching out. I have to say, since all of this started with Delaware Met, you are the first person from the school to reach out to me. I emailed the President of the Board and the Head of School, both of whom I later found out have other things going on medically related. I applaud you for contacting me and commenting.

 My problem with all of this is this is an experiment. These students have been through the wringer. About 70% of the students at Del Met attended Moyer. While last year was a huge improvement for many of these students, they come from areas where all the expertise in the world do not apply when it comes to truly understanding them. I’m not saying you don’t, and your resume is certainly impressive. Do all the teachers at Del Met have a resume this extensive? Upon looking at your experience, you should probably be running the school! Seriously.

 My deepest concerns are with the leadership at the school and the board. These students don’t have time for the adults to figure it out and get it right. They should have been prepared from day one, not two months into school. I can not for the life of me fathom how they were not aware of the kinds of issues they could have with their student population. The fact there is no State Resource Officer in the school astounds me.

 I will always publish comments. I have never not published a comment unless it is an utter fabrication and lie. I prefer them to be the real person, but I accept anonymous comments as well. But I have outed one commenter who wanted to play some games with me, but that was a very unique circumstance.

 While I have your attention, this is the school’s chance to let us know what is going on there. When a school shuts down all communication, people wonder why there is a veil of silence. I will gladly listen to the story, and I’m sure my readers will want to know as well.

 Obviously there are giant issues there, otherwise the DOE would not have put a brand new charter on formal review. So please, if you are able, be the voice for this school that is so desperately needed right now.

And she came back:

“My problem with all of this is this is an experiment.”..Not true-There is not one program, process or practice that is not grounded in research that I personally have experienced as effective. I would not have voluntarily given up my job in the Prison and walked away from a pretty straight forward path to retirement if I did not believe in my heart that this Charter had assembled the best minds for solving the most difficult problems that are hurting our city and ultimately damaging everyone who is associated with the reputation of our city as Murdertown.

I spent 5 years locked in with the worst offenders under 21 and asked ” what could we have done better to have prevented you from committing your crime. ” Those young men told me their story. They started telling me about school as far back as they could remember and we talked about a way to improve their experience in school. One young man said ” you people are all talk and no action. You are not willing to come into the city and really do anything to help us.”

When he left the prison to go home he was in his cell and he said ” I love you Ms Ogden.” I said ” I love you too, be safe and don’t get shot.” Less than a week later he had 8 bullets in his head and died on the street in a pool of blood. I was pretty shook up.

I got a call from the Delaware Met and saw a connect between the Big Picture Model and everything I learned from the kids in prison. Not all of the kids at the Met are “at risk.” Many come from families with mom’s and dad’s that have great jobs. There is a very diverse population. The paradigm shift meets the needs of both the at risk kids and the kids from homes that are not at risk but want something different. There is great research behind every aspect of the model. Implementation of any new charter takes time and this is not my first rodeo with the first 60 days of a start up. Stay tuned for this Charter to fulfill the mission Charter’s were intended: To show alternatives that work – but not experiments.

This is my third Charter “start-up.”

I look forward to hearing more from Sue Ogden!