The teachers at Wilmington’s Thomas Edison Charter School are NOT happy with the Board of Directors today. As I broke the news this morning, Head of School Salome Thomas-EL was removed from the school this morning by the police with the board present. What was the issue?
The school had a surplus of funds from their FY2017 budget to the tune of $534,000.00. The teachers were requesting a 1.5% increase in salary which Thomas-EL asked for from the board. The request was denied. What happened from there I do not know… yet. But to publicly shame a charter leader who is beloved by his staff and the community around him is in very bad taste. Not to mention the appearance this gives to students. This is a school with a low-income/poverty population hovering around 96%. The last thing they need is to see their school leader kicked out of school over what amounts to him fighting for higher teacher pay at a school that is known for having the lowest paid teaching staff in New Castle County. But they can afford to have lavish Christmas parties and send seven people to a charter school conference?
Thomas Edison’s teachers, like all Delaware public school teachers, received either a 1.5% salary increase or $750 (whichever is greater) last year. The board sent a letter to their educators a year ago advising them they would receive this increase but then backed out a couple of months later. The board’s response was that charter schools are not required to give those raises as approved by our state legislators in the annual budget. Based on their board approved budget for FY2017, the amount for salaries was $5,877,429.00. If they gave the 1.5% increase, that would have amounted to $88,161.43. With a surplus of $534,000 (or $588,000 according to their final June 2017 monthly financial statement), that would have been a drop in the bucket. My guess with the increase in local funds of over $176,000 is funds received from the settlement with the Christina School District over local funding. So where is that money going if it isn’t going to teachers? Where does their surplus money go to?
The answer to that is more frightening than the question itself. Thomas Edison has a foundation. The school transfers their surplus money into a foundation account. What happens from there is anybody’s guess. In looking at their July monthly financial position statement, it shows a board approved “transfer” budget which I can only assume is coming from their “foundation” account. In July it shows $25,000 transferred and in August another $25,000. But if the school has a $534,000 variance and they are transferring funds into the foundation account, what is being done with the rest of that money? In looking at their expenditures for May 2017 compared to June 2017, it looks like their expenses went up considerably in June considering school ended that month. And why isn’t the school posting financial statements for their foundation on their website? If I were the State Auditor, I would be looking into this as soon as possible.
This is not an attack on Salome Thomas-EL or the charter school. This is looking to be another round of what the hell is this charter board doing? The optics on this at the time of their charter renewal do not look good. Could this be Family Foundations Academy redux? I would LOVE to see their monthly foundation bank statements! If you have nothing to hide Board of Directors at Thomas Edison Charter School, I am asking that you make your bank statements from your foundation bank account available on your website immediately!
It looks like we need legislation around district and charter “foundation” accounts as well. You hear that legislators!
*To clarify, Salome Thomas-EL was NOT arrested this morning. Police were used to escort him off school premises.