Archives for category: Delaware

A few years ago, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs pledged $100 million to launch 10 super new innovative schools, which she dubbed XQ schools. Each would get $10 million to show their stuff. She surrounded herself with veterans of the failed Race to the Top, like Arne Duncan and Russlyn Ali. What could possibly go wrong?

I reported last week that two of the 10 had failed.

The XQ school in Somerville, Massachusetts, was rejected when town officials realized that the cost of running a new school for 160 students would cause budget cuts to existing schools.

Leonie Haimson pointed out that a third had failed, in Oakland.

More on the Somerville story here (not behind any paywall): XQ Institute also awarded $10M to start a Summit Learning HS in Oakland that never opened. means 3/10 of the awardees of their Super School prize have already failed.

Stay tuned.

Kevin Ohlandt reports that a second charter school in Delaware voted to join the Delaware State Education Association.

This is sure to make the Waltons, Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers, and Democrats for Edicarion Reform very angry, because part of their motivation for supporting charters is to break trachers’ Unions. More than 90% of charters are non-union, and their billionaire backers want to keep them that way.

Kevin writes:

Odyssey Charter School teachers and staff voted and an overwhelming majority decided to join the Delaware State Education Association. This is the second charter school in Delaware to do so in 2018. Last Spring, the Charter School of Wilmington also voted to join DSEA. In 1997, Positive Outcomes joined DSEA but opted out in 2000. Delaware College Prep joined in 2012 but closed a few years later due to low enrollment.

With 131 for and 16 against, over 89% of the educators in the school decided a teachers union was the best option for them. Prior to 2018, it was virtually unheard of for Delaware charters to unionize. What turned the tide?

For Odyssey, the decision was clear- they did not like decisions the board was making and felt their voices were not being heard. When former leader Nick Manolakos did not have his contract renewed, the school hired two to take his place. But the tipping point was when their former Board President, who had just resigned, became a leading contender for a third highly paid administrator.

Over the summer this led to those teachers and parents questioning the board about decisions that would affect the school. Parents saw fundraiser after fundraiser to get more money for the school but didn’t feel the money was going towards what the school promised. But they had money for all these administrators.

Remember, Delaware is the state that DeVos gave more than $10 million to expand charter schools, even though there is a problem with low enrollments (I.e., not much demand).

Mercedes Schneider noticed a curious fact about Betsy DeVos’s latest handout to charter schools in Delaware.

DeVos gave the state $10.4 million to expand charters and “share best practices” only months after a Delaware charter school closed due to under enrollment.

In other words, Delaware does not have a demand for charter schools, but DeVos is funding them anyway.

It is truly weird to see the federal government handing out $399 million for new charter schools when the charter sector is amply funded by the richest people in America.

Funding is not their problem. Accountability, transparency, honesty, and integrity are. Money won’t fix those problems.

Kevin Ohlandt reports that the “Delaware Academy of Safety and Security” has closed down effective immediately.

The school leader has had problems with “ghost students” in the past, students who were counted but never attended. That’s called inflating enrollment for the sake of getting more money from the state.

Kevin wonders why the school wasn’t closed at the end of the last school year, in June. Now the students and families must find a new school, now.

Here is the closure notice.

The school was neither “safe” nor “secure.” It was a gamble. Why do parents gamble with their children’s lives? Are they so easily fooled into buying a shady deal?


The former principal of the Academy of Dover, a charter school in Delaware, was sentenced to prison for embezzling school funds. 

“Noel Rodriguez, the former principal of a Dover charter school, was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to pay $145,480 in restitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Andrews handed down the sentence Friday in Wilmington.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft in November.

According to court records and statements made in open court, between 2011 and 2014, while serving as principal of the Academy of Dover, Rodriguez embezzled $145,480 from the school.

The Department of Justice said he made personal expenses to four unauthorized credit cards that he opened in the name of the school, abusing the voucher program, and using the charter-school issued procurement credit card for his own personal purchases.

Rodriguez used the embezzled funds to purchase camping equipment, electronics, personal travel, and home improvement items, among other things.”

He got off with a lighter sentence than the charges he faced.

”In 2016, Rodriguez was indicted on four counts of federal program theft. Each count carried a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison, along with fines and restitution, the Department of Justice said at the time.”


Kevin Ohlandt writes about the team that has assembled to sell social impact bonds, perhaps to take advantage of the Trump administration’s desire to promote public-private partnerships.

“Who is involved? The name Ridge-Lane comes from former Pennsylvania Governor and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and financier Brad Lane. Others involved include: Jack Markell (DE), Christie Whitman (NJ), Jennifer Granholm (MI), Beverly Perdue (NC), John Deasy (former Superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District), James Douglas (VT), Gary Locke (WI), Jay Nixon (MO), Ted Mitchell (former U.S. Under Secretary of Education), Bill Ritter (CO) and a whole bunch of ex-federal figures. The goal of Ridge-Lane? According to ex-Pennsylvania Governor and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, in a press release issued today:

“I am excited to have such distinguished leaders join us” said Governor Ridge, “as we expand the company in support of our mission to drive positive outcomes in society, at the intersection of private innovation, investment capital, and government. We are proud to announce our new team members.”

“Yes, because we need more corporate education reform leaning folks dumping AND hedging more corporate dollars into education. Because that has resulted in so much better education for kids. Some of these people are the same ones who pledged their souls to the almighty standardized test and sacrificed millions of public education children for flawed state assessments. But now, to fix those problems in education created by some of these very same people, corporations will profit off student outcomes by betting on the outcomes. I am utterly disgusted it has come to this.”

When it comes to profit, not many people say no.















The former leader of Family Foundations Academy was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for embezzlement. He confessed that he was suffering from “‘a severe level of sexual addiction and shopping addiction.’” Yeah, that’s a pretty good reason for embezzlement of public funds.

It is almost as good as my favorite from the founder of the Lion of Judah Charter School in Cleveland, who was indicted for diverting $1.2 million to his personal businesses and was ordered to pay restitution of $195,000. His lawyer said it wasn’t right to blame him because he saw easy opportunities to make money and he got greedy.

Excuses, excuses! Greed, shopping addiction!

Kevin Ohlandt, the author of the blog Exceptional Delaware, here pays tribute to teacher Laurie Howard and names her as the Hero of the Year for her exceptional dedication to teaching and students. Laurie Howard recently died of lung cancer, far too young.

She fought corporate reform, against great odds.

Kevin writes:

I’ve known Laurie for almost three years. I met her through this blog. A teacher in Caesar Rodney School District, Laurie and I were in fierce agreement on many things. That standardized testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is wrong. That every single parent has a fundamental right to opt their child out of that test. That corporations are slowly taking over public schools and school districts are powerless to stop it.

He describes her passion for the arts and her passion for authentic teaching, not test-driven teaching.

And he writes:

I will miss you Laurie Howard. I find comfort that you are watching over all of us and I pray that you can impart your wisdom to those who think education is a financial playground. I know Laurie would want me to keep fighting the fight, and I will, the best I can. May you rest in peace my sweet friend.

Posthumously, in recognition of Laurie’s impact on others, and on Kevin’s recommendation, I name Laurie to the Honor Roll of this blog. She would have loved it.

Kevin Ohlandt reports that the former principal of the Academy of Dover (Delaware) pled guilty to stealing from the school, using several of its credit cards for personal expenses. “He spent the money on electronics, travel, car expenses, gardening and camping equipment, home improvement items and a dog house.”

Ohlandt writes:

“Rodriguez got a $250,000 fine and will assuredly be facing jail time at his sentencing, up to ten years. What I would like to know is if part of that $250,000 fine goes back to Academy of Dover. I think it should. Taxpayers were robbed by Rodriguez, they deserve to have their tax money go back to what it was allocated for.”

The State Auditor was surprised that the school received no oversight. Not from its private board of directors. Not from its auditors. Not from the state Department of Education. Not from the Charter School Accountability Committee.

It is taxpayer money, and no one is minding the cash register or the books. That is an invitation to theft.

The board of the Delaware Design-Lab High School sent out a notice to parents that the Head of School Joseph Mock was out, and the search was on for his replacement. Last year, the school won $10 million in Laurene Powell Jobs’ XQ Super School competition.

Blogger Kevin Ohlandt was stunned to hear the news and assumed that Mock resigned but it appears, says Ohlandt, but it appears that he was ousted.

Here is the beginning of the email to parents. Get a load of the titles:

“From: Design-Lab High School

“Sent: Friday, September 15, 5:20 PM

“Subject: Important Message from the DDLHS Board

“Dear DDLHS Families,

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to bring you up to date on changes inside school administration as we prepare for the next phase in the process of becoming an XQ Super School in August 2018.

“The Board will begin interviews next week for the position of XQ Project Manager and, shortly thereafter, will begin the search for the school’s XQ Dean of Academic Intensity. These leaders, together with a Dean of Engagement and Dean of College and Career Readiness, will guide us through the XQ process and prepare us for the opening of our XQ Super School next fall.

“As we shift our administrative structure to help us succeed as a Super School, the Board has decided to eliminate the position of Head of School effective Friday, September 15, 2017. As a result of these changes, we are sad to announce that Mr. Mock will be pursuing other opportunities at this time. Mr. Mock has been an invaluable asset to our school since he joined us as Vice Principal/Special Education Coordinator in 2015. Through his tenure as Principal and Head of School, he has navigated some of the most challenging waters a school can face with grace and commitment. We thank Mr. Mock for all he’s done preparing DDLHS to move into this next phase in our school’s history, and wish him well in his new endeavors.”

Translation: Mock is out immediately. His temporary replacement is a member of the board. Something’s rotten in Denmark (er, Delaware).

Lesson #1 for Mrs. Jobs: Schools are about people, not tools. They are not corporations where the personnel are interchangeable. Human interactions create a culture, and the culture supports the people in it and the work they do–or it doesn’t. A school is more than the sum of its parts. Great tools do not a great school make. Commitment, dedication, compassion, and teamwork matter most.

Perhaps that’s what the XQ project will demonstrate.