Incompetence seems to rule the Delaware DOE these days.
The Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Charter Schools, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network have been holding meetings this year to look at changing two areas of their annual Performance Framework. The Financial and Organizational Frameworks are two sections that have been controversial for charter schools in the first state. Some of the proposed changes are minor but some are very big. One statement from the proposed draft for the organizational framework probably sums up what many of the charter schools feel when these things roll out each year:
In order to avoid penalizing charter schools for anything less than perfection, the authorizer will apply a reasonable interpretation of sufficiency that acknowledges attentiveness, prudent compliance, and generally sound stewardship.
Let’s get real here Delaware! Unless a charter school falls apart like Delaware Met, Moyer, and Pencader, you aren’t going to see the DOE or even Red Clay doing a lot in terms of compliance on some of these issues. Especially website maintenance. Far too many charters have been raked over the coals by bloggers such as myself for not adhering to the law on tons of the requirements. But when it comes time for the charter to renew or get a modification, or even get a formal review, those things are rarely mentioned in the conversation. The State Board of Education rarely talks about any of that stuff. But in my eye, they need to be perfect with those things. The districts do as well (see: Indian River).
One of the biggest flaws in this new system pertains to board membership. Delaware law clearly states:
At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;
With this new organizational framework, they are proposing to change Delaware code, without any regulation or legislation, by giving charters a 90 day window to fill the parent and teacher slot for their board membership. This label in the framework would give the charter a “partially meets standard”. You can’t partially follow the law. You either do it or you don’t. In this area, you are either “meets standard” or “does not meet standard”. As well, they want to do the same thing with not posting minutes and financial information on their website, but this would have a 60 day window. You can’t cherry-pick through state law. If the law needs to change, lobby legislators to change it. But you can’t do it through the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education. This Department continues to defy Delaware legislators. It is the legislators duty to write the laws of this state, not the Charter School Office at the DOE.
The proposed financial framework would give charters some leeway when it comes to reporting requirements or how they submit financial information with the state. Let me be the first to say ALL Delaware schools need to get some serious training on this. The training exists, but everyone seems to do what they want with limited to no oversight. There have to be uniform procedures and policies across the board for every charter and district in the state with absolutely no excuses. Once again, it comes down to partially breaking the law. A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one. But even more important, there have to be very real consequences for those who violate financial laws in our state. This is something I hope and pray the 149th General Assembly tackles when they come back in January. Because right now, it’s a train wreck.
I will fully admit I sometimes feel bad for the charters. Especially when it comes to the DOE’s constant nitpicking about things. An organization filled with more non-educators in leadership roles that doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a right and left hand most of the time.
But the most egregious thing out of all this: the window for public comment begins on September 1st. But try finding them anywhere. Good luck with that! I happened to find the below documents in the DOE search engine. How can you say this is an open, transparent, and collaborative method when the public can’t even comment on what you are proposing? Even worse, the State Board of Education won’t let you comment on any action item on their agenda. This won’t come up for final action at a State Board of Education meeting until their October 20th meeting, but if these documents are never released to the public it will be highly illegal for the State Board to take action.
The Delaware DOE Charter School Office needs to release these drafts to the public and let them comment on it. These documents have not been posted on the DOE website. Care to take a wild guess who is running the show on this? If you said David Blowman, that would be correct on the surface. Until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney, who left the DOE on July 1st, Blowman is the guy in charge. But in a very odd find, well, you’ll get the picture…
How can Jennifer Nagourney be the author of the below documents when she is no longer an employee at the Delaware DOE? Doesn’t she work in the Charter School Office at the New York City DOE now? What in God’s name is David Blowman doing? This is the same guy who has run the non-transparent local cost per pupil scam that has caused a “firestorm” in Delaware. The same guy who went ahead and sent out changes to school districts and charter schools without the old Secretary of Education Seal of Approval? And he is in charge of this hot mess? Where charters seem to think it will be okay to partially follow the law? With a guy like Blowman running the show no wonder they think they can do as they please! And, it goes without saying, I’m sure the Sisters of Sin, Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network have their hands involved in this. But Nagourney? Unless you are getting paid for this work when you are no longer employed by the State of Delaware, why are you even involved at this point? It’s not like I haven’t written about the old PDF right-click trick. And you guys keep forgetting that essential thing!
At this point in time, our General Assembly needs to meet for emergency hearings and subpoena the hell out of the entire Delaware Department of Education. Every single document in their system. Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom. The more than obvious fraud and lies coming out of this Department is readily available for anyone to see. I’ve proved it over and over again. But no one does anything about it. It’s time. You know it and I know it. So stop making postures and just do it!
Below are the two proposed frameworks. These are not approved, just in draft form.
Proposed Financial Framework
Proposed Organizational Framework