Free Public Schools
CHAPTER 5. CHARTER SCHOOLS
§ 513. Reporting and oversight.
(a) On or before November 1, each charter school shall produce an annual report for the school year ending the previous June, which shall discuss the school’s progress in meeting overall student performance goals and standards and contain a financial statement setting forth by appropriate categories the school’s revenues and expenditures and assets and liabilities. To ensure that such reports provide parents and approving authorities with clear and comparable information about the performance of charter schools, the Department of Education shall prescribe a uniform format for such reports, which may be supplemented by requirements set by the approving authority for schools it has chartered.
§ 515. Oversight and revocation process.
(f) If the accountability committee reports that the school has complied with its charter and the criteria set forth in § 512 of this title, the approving authority shall approve or disapprove its report at a public meeting after giving the charter school 30 days notice. If the approving authority disapproves the report, it shall identify the reasons for that decision with particularity. Thereafter, the approving authority shall hold a hearing, within 30 days, to decide the appropriate remedy pursuant to subsection (g) of this section.
When you have laws with so many loopholes and “Shall” and “May” interpretation and even sometimes implementation can be confusing.
Trying to review the Delaware charter school legislation in relationship to the current issue with Red Clay’s Odyssey Charter School is difficult however I bet the farm that I’ve spent more time reviewing them than the board members.
In October Odyssey gave a presentation which was seeking modification of their charter school agreement with Red Clay to allow Odyssey to operate out of two building locations and to expand enrollment. During that meeting it was revealed Odyssey did not give Red Clay students a set admission preference. However, the board listened to their request and assigned their Charter Accountability Committee to review Odyssey’s request and report back to the board to assist in guidance and recommendation to the board in the charter modification request.
While reviewing the law I noticed, Subsection 513 (a) re: annual report on of before November 1 of each year. It dawn on me that I have seen or even heard a committee report from the Red Clay board
The Red Clay school board assigned the district Charter Accountability Committee to review Odyssey request and it’s my understanding there was an onsite visit. So in reality the committee’s review can double for the required annual report but it didn’t.
Here are the concerns:
It appears there was no required annual review on or before November 1. The committee actually met on November 7, 2008 and gave their presentation to the Red Clay board on November 19, 2008. However, the board reviewed the report only in relationship to the issues of Odyssey’s request for charter modification not as an annual report. I am convinced there would have been no report of any kind if Odyssey didn’t make the charter modification request which only then did the board assign the accountability committee.
Subsection 515 (f)”the approving authority shall approve or disapprove its report at a public meeting after giving the charter school 30 days notice”
The district charter accountability committee met on November 7, 2008 and gave their report to the board for review on November 19, 2008. The board flawed in calling for a vote because they failed to give Odyssey Charter School the required 30 days notice. Furthermore it put the school board is a position to vote in haste which was a disservice to the board, the district, Odyssey and especially to the Odyssey students and families.
Though the vote was to address the charter modification, in actuality the board was required to take the accountability committee’s recommendations into the equation. The vote sent a message that there were concerns with in the report. More importantly I find the vote to be premature and inappropriate as it did not give Odyssey proper notice of 30 days. They would have been given adequate time to review the report and board concerns. Obviously the board would have more time to review the report and have in-depth discussion without pressure of voting for or against within minutes of review of the report. The discussion that the board did have was laced with personal views and opinions of individual board member’s pros and cons in regards to charter schools in general. The task at hand was not to debate charter schools in general but rather reviewing the accountability committee report and the request for modification of the charter.
I could take my negative digs at the board however there are new members whom I don’t think took the time to review and digest the state charter schools laws with all its twist and turning loopholes. I can say, here is any classic example of why Red Clay needs to get out of the charter school approving business and why the law needs to be change putting full charter school approval and oversight under the control of the Delaware Department of Education. Red Clay tends be more reactive without deep thought and review of procedures, guidelines and review and consultation of their law.
The three to three board member vote on the charter modification issues was rescinded however, not based on possible board errors as I see. Board members did acknowledge after the vote additional information brought to their attention after the fact may have resulted in a different vote outcome. This further supports my position that the board voted in haste and did not allow reasonable time for themselves to digest the report and for Odyssey to provide an detailed response to the report and board. It was like throwing Odyssey is chair and putting a integration spotlight on them.
Don’t get me wrong I have may reservations about charter schools and much of those reservation are clouded by Red Clay’s participation in the charter school approval and review process. The Red Clay school board needs to vote on a moratorium on not reviewing or voting on any new charter school application.