In April, the Delaware Department of Education approved the charter school application for Sussex Montessori School. They were originally scheduled to open in the 2019-2020 school year. Now they will open in the 2020-2021 as long as they hit 80% of their enrollment target by May 1st of 2020.
The charter school submitted a minor modification request to the Delaware Department of Education last month and on October 9th, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting approved the request.
Based on this, no new charter schools will have opened in Delaware during the five-year period between 2015 to 2020.
The reasons, such as having enough time to make renovations on the planned site and hiring a Head of School, can be seen below.
The Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the charter school application for the Sussex Montessori School this evening with a 6-0 vote. The second charter school in Sussex County will open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. However, there were some conditions for the approval and should the charter school not meet those conditions, their charter would be revoked.
The two big conditions dealt with student enrollment and an actual facility. Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the charter school must have 80% of their enrollment by May 1st, 2019. As well, they must have an actual facility in place. Currently, the school has not made a firm decision on a building or even an actual location in Sussex County.
The enrollment decision could be tricky. In the past, as was seen in the case of Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School in 2015, they were not at their 80% enrollment numbers by May 1st of 2015, a mere four months before they opened. This caused both to go under formal review. While they met those numbers and escaped charter revocation, they did go through the formal review process first. Bunting’s decision to revoke the charter if that 80% is not met caused Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett to immediately question the decision. I will have to check Delaware state code on this one!
This will be the second Montessori charter school in Delaware. First State Montessori Academy, located in downtown Wilmington, opened in 2014.
Sussex Montessori School went through their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting in their application process. I thought for sure, given this was their second attempt to apply for a charter, they would get it right and everything would be smooth sailing. Instead, their application is missing a lot of information. The committee smacked them up and down the court.
These are my favorite quotes from the report: Continue reading Sussex Montessori Appears To Be Clueless On Special Education & Basic Charter Formation
Only one application came in for a new charter school this year in Delaware. It is the same one that applied last year but that school withdrew their application shortly after. Sussex Montessori School is going for it again this year.
The proposed school is looking for 260 students in grades K-3 and by year four they are hoping to have 455 students in K-6. There is only one charter school in Sussex County, Sussex Academy. There are some very familiar names in their founders list and interested parties with a board consisting of nine people. It sounds like they have their ducks in a row with this application.
What bothered me about their Executive Summary was this line:
It is clear that the traditional public schools are not working well for many children in Sussex County.
They based this on… what else… standardized test scores. We will NEVER learn, will we? This charter school isn’t even open and they are already assuming they can drive those Smarter Balanced test scores up. I know, whether you agree with this or not, you have to kiss the ring of the Delaware DOE by promising higher achievement on the not-so-Smarter Balanced Assessment. Shouldn’t there be more to education than this horrible measurement?
Sussex Montessori School does have three enrollment preferences in their application: siblings of students already enrolled, children of staff members, and children of the school’s founders.
The school is projecting a little less than 22% of their funding will come from local school districts for each year they are open.
To read the entire application and all the attachments, please go here. The leadership team of Sussex Montessori School will have their first meeting with the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee on January 24th.
Wow! I have been out of the loop! Sussex Montessori School withdrew their application for their charter school to open up in the 2018-2019 school year. This happened on January 16th.
It doesn’t look like the Delaware Dept. of Education officially dug into their application because it is not showing any response from the DOE on their website, just the below withdrawal letter. I am actually surprised at this. There is only one charter school in Sussex County and there has been a plea from folks like Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network for more charters in lower Delaware.
The letter does indicate they will submit another application in December, 2017 for the 2019-2020 school year. This is probably the longest stretch where Delaware has not seen any new charter schools. If their next application gets approved, it would be four years between new charters opening anywhere in the state. But I would rather see them err on the side of caution and make sure they get it right then rush to opening. That didn’t work out very well for some charters in recent memory!
The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School. For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River. By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods. Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.
Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement. The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation. They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank. If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.
I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out. Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013. Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education. But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support. Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year (2018) and 450 students by 2023.
Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago. There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists. With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class. It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source. Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.