More DE DOE errors in handing Pencader’s distress! #netDE #edude

I would appreciate those commenting please refrain from making personal attacks towards each other. The intent of this post is not to be negative towards Pencader but to highlight errors on the Delaware Department of Education in procedures  associated with Pencader’s formal review. As for you Pencader folks, though there are errors on you part I want to point out errors on DE DOE’s part and how it relates to DE DOE being a disservice to Pencader.

I personal feel a DE DOE FRT should have been ordered for Pencader due to concerns of possible financial stress definded

Delaware Code Title 14, Chapter 18, Subchapter I, Subsection 1802 which declare a public school or charter being in financial destressed based on one of the following provisions. In this case (1)(c)  

§ 1802. Financial Recovery Team.

Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education (“Secretary”) that a school district or charter school is in financial distress as provided in paragraph (1) of this section, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“Director”), with the consent of the Controller General, may appoint a Financial Recovery Team (“Team”), and the Department of Education is hereby authorized to secure technical assistance and other resources as necessary to ensure the effective operations of the Team.

(1) For the purposes of this section a local school district or charter school shall be considered in financial distress when 1 or more of the following criteria are met:

Notice “shall” re: 1 or more.

a. The district financial position report required to be submitted on May 1, pursuant to § 1507(a) of this title, projects less than 1 month’s carryover; or

b. It is projected at any time during the course of the fiscal year that local payroll expenses will exceed projected local revenues; or

c. The charter school has been placed on formal review based, at least in part, on concerns regarding the charter school’s finances; or

d. Whenever a school district or charter school projects that it cannot fund 1 or more scheduled payroll disbursements.

(2) During any period of time when it is determined that a school district or charter school is in financial distress, the Financial Recovery Team shall be empowered to exercise, subject to the approval of the Secretary, control over the expenditure of funds appropriated to a school district or charter school as deemed necessary by the members of the Team. Control shall include, without limiting the foregoing, the right to approve the school district’s or charter school’s annual budget and any subsequent material amendment thereto, the right to approve district tax rates, the right to request drawdown of state financial assistance if applicable, the right to approve financial reporting to the local board of education or charter school board, the right to approve accounting policies, procedures and reports, the right to require a Financial Responsibility Committee be established by the local school board or charter school comprised of 1 or more members of the said board and/or residents of the district or, in the case of a charter school, parents of students attending the school. The Committee shall examine and report on the financial status of the district or charter school and shall have the right to pre-approve any obligation or contract that would require the expenditure of funds by the school district or charter school. Notwithstanding any provision of either this Code or any applicable rule or regulation to the contrary, the authority extended under this section shall apply to the expenditure of all funds received by a school district or charter school.

(3) The Financial Recovery Team shall report at least monthly to the Governor, the General Assembly, Director and the Controller General regarding the district’s or charter school’s current and projected financial position.

(4) The district or charter school shall reimburse the State for all salary and related costs of the Financial Recovery Team.

(5) Upon the recommendation of the Secretary that a school district or charter school is no longer in financial distress as defined in this section, the Director, with the consent of the Controller General, may elect to remove the members of the Financial Recovery Team.

The following has been taken from DE DOE Pencader’s Final Report Charter School Accountability Committee Report dated January 11, 2013 See my comments following the attached:

Criterion 8: Economic Viability
This criterion was deemed as “met” during the Preliminary Meeting; however, considering a new curriculum and organizational structure, the Committee had concerns about how these changes affect the school’s budget.

The Committee noted the following.
 The school’s response did not describe how the new curriculum, organizational
structure, the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination), and summer programs will impact the budget.
 Litigation concerning special education issues is being settled and Pencader may need funds for additional services to students; however, the school could use existing teachers instead of out-sourcing these services.
 The Board ought to have provided a new budget; have been more proactive; and made certain to communicate any new data.
 There is not a clear plan for student recruitment. Considering recent events, Pencader needs a very clear process to recruit students and thus increase revenue to the school. 

The Committee concluded that Criterion Eight is met with a condition. In the event that the charter is not revoked, Pencader shall provide a revised budget to clearly delineate how the school will remain financially viable based on existing costs, projected additional costs, any changes to the staffing structure, as well as a realistic appraisal of student recruitment efforts to increase student enrollment.

Though DE DOE notates, “The Committee concluded that Criterion Eight is met  with “Condition” those conditions compounded by DE DOE comments in the first paragraph, “This criterion was deemed as “met” during the Preliminary Meeting; however, considering a new curriculum and organizational structure, the Committee had concerns about how these changes affect the school’s budget”, does raise “concern” cited in Title 14, Chapter 18, Subchapter I, Subsection 1802, (1)(c) “The Charter School has been placed on formal review based, at least in part, on concerns regarding the charter school’s finances”. Furthermore, supporting this “concern” the DE DOE Charter School Accountability Committee notate financial concerns in their initial notification to Pencader of being put on “formal Review” dated September 25 ,2012. In my opinion DE DOE did cite a reasonable amount of “concern” that it warranted the trigger to call in a DE DOE Financial Recovery Team.

Stay with me folks! Pencader Board President Frank McIntosh actually served and the chair for Christina School District’s Financial Review Committee in association when Christina went into financial recovery where DE DOE did assigned an FRT. And yes Franl McIntosh serve Christina quite well!  

Remember folks my mission is driven by transparency and damn right I am pissed because I feel Pencader has been dragging ass in getting all the $$$$ cards on the table. I am hear to say “if” DE DOE assigned an FRT as required by law the FRT could have actually helped Pencader as it did Christina School District. DE DOE did provide “loans” to Christina as the FRT with Frank McIntosh’s help put Christina back on solid financial footing. And yes that was a compliment to Frank McIntosh.

Part of the Delaware Department of Education’s mission is to provide “technical assistance” to all Delaware public schools. DE DOE is also required to adhere to the laws governing Delaware’s public schools. DE DOE Charter Accountability Review Committee opened ended decision to suggest Criterion 8 was met was more about not putting DE DOE in a position to be required to call in the FRT whereas they would be boxed in a corner to offer Pencader financial assistance via a “loan” as they did Christina School District and Red Clay School District fell into financial distress on a much more serious note than Pencader. However, the fact remains and is supported by DE DOE own reports there is “concerns” with Pencader state of finances.

I am very disappointed that representatives from the Charter Schools Network of Delaware and Pencader’s lawyer didn’t see the gray area that has great “merit” in the defense of Pencader charter school. Traditional school districts ae too big to fail which is why DE DOE will $$ bail them out. But do make note, the law did include charter schools in those provisions. Also, the “F” in FRT is for “Financial” and the “R” is for “Recovery”. It is quite obvious the intent of the law and the FRT is to assist distressed public and charter schools to get them back on their financial feet. Here is another case of the imbalance between charter schools and traditional public schools that cuts into “assistance”. Sure let charter schools fail so say! However, the law is defined charging DE DOE the same responsibilities toward charter schools and traditional schools. Hold charter schools under water by their head and pull traditional public schools out of the water by their heads doesn’t seem equal. Remember I do support charter schools as a choice parents and students demand but I demand the same transparency for charters and traditional public schools.

Personally, with the other conditions not met by Pencader I think my concern is moot! Pencader is a bit of a mess but let’s take a look at DE DOE the state agency that is charged with providing technical assistance. Sure let’s hold Pencader accountable but why not do the same with DE DOE? 

Again, this post in no way is meant to downgrade Pencader and is more representative of highlighting real fractures in the way Delaware public schools are governor and the lack of capacity on many parties especially DE DOE’s charter school office.

To Pencader parents, I am sorry I can’t go to battle with you like I did last time. I just wish the Pencader board was more forthcoming with financial data such an board approved financial budget, an in-depth financial positioning report and the required IRS 990 forms. Your voices may not carry any weight unless the board produces evidences they met the condition set by the DE DOE review committee.

Folks please not personal attacks on each other because they will be deleted.             

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11 Responses

  1. “The intent of this post is not to be negative towards Pencader but to highlight errors on the Delaware Department of Education in procedures associated with Pencader’s formal review.”

    And later . . .

    ” . . . damn right I am pissed because I feel Pencader has been dragging ass in getting all the $$$$ cards on the table.”

    And later . . .

    “Personally, with the other conditions not met by Pencader I think my concern is moot!”

    Nice work, Kilroy. Just bash everyone. Actually, I will now refer to you as Killjoy.

    • To Cindy, facts are bashing. not surprising.

    • Cindy,being a Pencader insiders you are doing more damage to Pencader than anyone commenting. This is very sad! I’ve laid out something here a competent lawyer could use in defense of Pencader something you should have seen. Much of Pencader failures is a direct results of DE DOE not providing “technical assistance” which is part of their charge. If DE DOE would have sent in the FRT once concerns were raised about finances much of Pencader’s financial structural problems would have been put in check. However, before it’s all over Pencader would have need a “loan”. Damn I even complimented Frank on his role with CSD. Frabk, Cindy is no help to you or Pencader!

      Publius, I know you’ve been ask to no comment on blogs. You are smart enough to at least step-back and weigh all feedback. DE DOE is dancing around the FRT point because that is about the $$$.

      Cindy, there is no need to call you names and you behavior suggest Pencader will be closed. You could have used all you energy to help Pencader and yes demand they produce those reports and information required of all successful charter schools.

      To all those who comment on Kilroy’s reading this, I ask that you not make negative comments directly towards other commenting even Cindy. The post I made in regards to the FRT and law does not mean I am trying to save Pencader. However, I do feel DE DOE is dropping the ball in regards to the law and if it helps Pencader so be it.
      .

  2. Kilroy, it has been relayed to me, as I was not in a leadership position in the CSD when the need arose, that when the state convened the FRT for Christina’s financial distress, the FRT members were compensated for their time. I understand that that compensation was substantial.

    If DE DOE had convened the FRT for Pencader, and if DOE had subjected Pencader to same rules regarding compensation of team members, such convention may have resulted in the further erosion of public dollars.

    That does not mean that DOE should have precluded Pencader from the courtesy of an FRT, but it does raise the question as to whether or not DOE knows details of the finances that we, as the public, do not. I would assume that they do. I would also assume that DOE’s failure to afford Pencader this intervention was deliberate and concerning.

    But, you know what they say about assumptions…

    • As far as DE DOE FRT compensation I understand however the clause in the law states “shall” and certainly the legislators must of understood the financial impact. Pencader like most Delaware charter schools are small equaling small less complex finances than CSD and Red Clay. I looking at this from the accountability aspect and in all fairness to Pencader. Any compensation could have been rolled into a loan spread out over a few years. But realistic it all moot because of all the issues unanswered by Pencader. But again, I must point out DE DOE’s lack of capacity of understand they “technical assistance” role didn’t really help Pencader. Nothing stop them as the so-called partner to provide Pencader suggesting and direction on how to correct areas of concern. As far as finances OMG doesn’t DE DOE or the state board offer training to local school board members? DE DOE has a rep on the CBOC and yet the are a mess but trying to get their act together. As a member of the CBOC surely DOE’s rep must know if or no Pencader loss non-profit statas re: IRS 990!

      Pencader has been digging their own hole however, we must question the quality of DE DOE oversight via their charter school office and DE DOE’s commitment as a “partner”.

      The law is the law and everything I see that is documented suggest DE DOE did and does have a “concern” with Pencader’s finances warranting adherence to the section of the law I cited. That intervention could have help Pencader get focused on all problems. One thing I did note was apparent litigation on IDEA issues which does impact finances in legal fees and any $$$ settlements.

      “I would also assume that DOE’s failure to afford Pencader this intervention was deliberate and concerning”

      Murphy entered the game after it started and perhaps don’t understand the “shall” in Delaware laws and we know DE DOE historically dances around the FRT issue with charters. Traditional public school districts are too big to fail and in now way DE DOE wants to go for a state takeover. They are better blowing smoke and could effectively manage a district re: day to day operation. As far as charter schools, charter schools are fly where smashing them takes no conscious thought. I support charter schools!

      I would love to go to Wednesday’s meeting and rip DE DOE on the FRT thing however as you see with Cindy’s Killjoy remark I see it as a message my personal safety might be of concern. It would take brave souls to speak out against Pencader since Markell gave them home court advantage. .

  3. Kilroy,

    I completely agree with you in that DOE failed in the technical assistance arena. It appears that once the most recent formal review was announced that DOE moved into “getcha” mode. Not surprising. But, it does feel like they did abdicate some of their other duties.

    However, like you, I am have concerns that prevent me attending either hearing.

    • The problem is DE DOE is the charter authorizing agent and oversight agent and they forget they have responsibilities beyond that as “DE DOE”. Compounding the problem is, DE DOE’s level of reluctance to be an effective partner with technical assistance because charters are corporation and more so they don’t want to infringe on the unique self- autonomy. Red Clay doesn’t micro manage their chartered school but in fact works with then re: shared programming at CSW and Cab being in one building. Also its my understand that Red Clay rents / allow DMA to use some sports fields at other Red Clay “public” schools. I don’t know how to explain it but perhaps like this, DE DOE gives birth to charter schools and does nothing to nurture them but have the paddle handy to spank them. There is nothing wrong with providing technical assistance. DE DOE is acting ass they are a corporation many times in a world of their own.

      Pencader was already on probation and never met all the condition set before and actually added new ones! Call in for another compete formal review is like giving them or any other charter on probation a new trial. I am making a point beyond Pencader and to the process. If someone is on probation and violated it by not completing conditions set they don’t get a new trial. DE DOE should be in a position to make charter schools or charter applicants fear them but should set rules that were they lines don’t move like the tides of the ocean. There are many other charter schools that don’t post this year’s and last IRS 990 forms and some are just as bad with online transparency.

      “However, like you, I am have concerns that prevent me attending either hearing”

      The process stinks because public comments shouldn’t change the structural findings of the review committee that is calling for closure.. Image a school can stay open with all these infractions because parents and students are pissed! It is sad that if the general public and taxpayers who aren’t in favor of a charter school staying open based on the official findings of DE DOE can’t attend public meetings in fear of reprisals or personal safety. I can handle myself but its no worth the effort.

  4. One of the real problems seems to be what the actual role of the “authorizer” of a charter means. DOE’s stance on it is that they will monitor to be sure the school is aligned with its charter but beyond that the leash is very long. Pencader got all tangled up in the leash. You are right, Kilroy, Pencader is under an umbrella of 7 conditions from the 2011 review that must be met be June 30, 2013. The current review imposed another five “charges” on the school. DOE, to be fair, has handed Pencader a set of guidelines and said to them this is what we want you to follow and do, show us you are doing it. DOE isn’t looking for greatness, nor is it looking for promises. They are looking for compliance. Pencader pretty much poked them in the eye with that and has said we’ll do it our way. And imagine, only the seniors have had one year not living under a Formal Review, every other grade has had this hanging over their head every year since they entered. Should make a nice theme for a yearbook!

    • DE DOE is playing three roles,the charter authorizing agent, the oversight agent and their normal duties as DE DOE who is charged with providing technical assistance. How is DE DOE being proactive in the technical assistance area? They cited the infractions and weaknesses but what are they doing to assistance in remedies other than say fix it? I know are to assist in certain board training per legislation and that in itself (legislation) demonstrates how DE DOE did lack in technical assistance. It took legislation to engage DE DOE in certain training rather than thinking of it themselves. Go visit all the charter school webpages and see the mess in inconsistency! Try to find the IRS 990 forms the law requires posted! Look at financial reports, board meeting agendas and.minutes. Clearly there is lack of uniformity that is setting up red flags.

      Surely the Delaware Charter Schools Newark and Innovative Schools can see the lack of uniformity in transparency. I also feel at least the parent representatives on the boards be selected by parents within the charter school. There responsibility should be representing parents views and voice. Every parent of every child in charter schools must make sure their school is transparent and if they don’t they must share in the blame of failure. Parents who hold their child’s school to task are often view as misguided and troublemakers. PTA/PTO should be required to post quarterly financial reports on the schools webpage.

      I am doing everything possible in this comment no blame Pencader for all the failures and point out some of those failure are a result of DE DOE’s lack of capacity and inability to be a real stakeholder in supporting Pencader and all charter schools. The productivity wasted in dealing with reviews and oversight could be better spent on partnership addressing the little bumps in the road. .

  5. Agreed. As far as the FR from 2011, Harriellen, I thought you stated that all conditions were being met except the one about being debt free by June 30, 2013, I realize there have been 5 new conditions. However, on one post you denigrate PCHS for not meeting the conditions and on another state they were all being met except the last one. It gets confusing. While DOE could have extended a “hand-up” instead of a hand slap, others who denigrated PCHS freely did not offer to pull along side and offer “technical” assistance either. Bashing folks does not make them anxious to stick their necks out only to be smacked again and again.

  6. I apologize for not being clear. We had conditions levied in the 2011 Formal Review. They were items like getting required DOE finance training, monthly financial reviews, etc. Those were all being met in a timely fashion. The one outstanding is about the debt-free status as of June, 2013. Conditions have not been set down with this current Formal Review because there has been no decision. What was asked of DOE was to realign governance, leadership, ascertain and implement stratgies around financial viability, student performance, and special education, as I recall. (Don’t have the document right here.) It seems that PCHS did not give DOE satisfaction about how they would or could meet those “requests” in their responses to the first two Formal Review meetings. If DOE gives a green light they will very likely hand down conditions. What I said was they have new “charges” under this current review. “Charges” may not be the right word. It looks to me that when DOE charged PCHS in this new review they actually handed them a pretty wide set of guidelines and just asked that they meet them. The review decision will be a vote on whether or not those guidelines are met.
    There is documentation from DOE that the 2011 conditions (with the last exception) were either met or being met.

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