Updated 6:45 p.m.
Some Important Information about Pencader’s Status
Dear Parents, Staff, Students, and members of Pencader’s community:
Today, as I’m sure you know, we had our meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee as part of the process in the Formal Financial Review. To say it did not go as we hoped or expected would be a huge understatement. Let me explain a bit about how we thought this process would work.
At the Preliminary Meeting in May DOE representatives asked us about three of what they call “Charter Criteria.” (There are 14 but they had concerns about 3) Criteria #1 focuses on the governance/school board of the school. Criteria #8 is about the financial viability of the school and Criteria #9 is something of a summary criteria speaking to the administrative operations of the school. There we no concerns with the other 11 criteria. They were considered “met.” About 10 days after our meeting we received a letter from John Carwell, Charter Chief, outlining the criteria and listing some 5 documents we needed to provide to show that we were in compliance with Criteria #1 and #9. In the letter outlining their expectations for a response for us they listed 6 documents necessary to show compliance with Criteria #8.
We compiled a binder of approximately 66 pages of documents, many notarized to show proof of compliance. We presented all of this information by the deadline they gave us which was last Monday. I can tell you that Dr. Lewis and I worked carefully and faithfully to answer the items posed to us by DOE and in every instance we supplied the information requested.
Today’s hearing was the opportunity for the Committee to respond to our documentation. It was clear to us that members of the Committee had not read our materials, or at least had not read them carefully. We were told not to include expected funding from Federal Grants we applying for, yet DOE then stated that we should have had that documentation ready for them. This does not even include the Consolidated and Race to the Top Grants that the State is already providing. These funds alone will provide Pencader with several hundred thousand dollars in Federal monies. We believe that with careful monitoring of finances Pencader can be operating in the financial black by June, 2012. That is ONE year away. Nowhere in our documentation did it say we were cutting the music program…what we did say, was that due to the minimal number of students registered in the program, that we would change that position to a part time position to also include an Art Teacher. Clearly, DOE did not actually read our material.
It is very disconcerting to realize that the Charter Office of DOE is using the Formal Review process to punish Pencader School’s students and teachers for the negligence of a previous administration of Board members and school leaders. That is simply unfair. I was a career teacher, spending many years in Delaware public schools and my belief had been that the Department of Education was there as a resource and a help to schools, teachers and students. Today I realized this is not the case at all. No help was ever offered, suggested, or given to Pencader. Clearly Pencader had financial problems for many of the years of its existence, and clearly DOE should have been aware of this fact. If they were, they ignored it, and now, rather than help us find a solution they decided the easiest way to “fix” the problem is to simply erase it. How very sad. How inappropriate for our kids.
There is still one more phase of the Formal Review process and that is the public hearing which takes place at the Townsend Building in Dover on July 13, from 5-7 pm. I am hopeful that parents, students, teachers and community members will stand up and speak for Pencader. I would like to believe that the people of DOE will listen because they are whether they realize it or not, recommending that a very good school with a strong academic program be closed because of the negligence of some people no longer connected to the school.
I have one more question that I’d like an answer to: If a new governing body and a new administration takes over a school and it is March or April of the school year and that new set of leaders finds horrendous financial problems exist, how in the world can a plan be created and implemented to solve those problems and make everything whole by June of that same year? We proved to DOE that we could run Pencader next year with no financial problems ever arising again and they refused to pay any attention. Shame on them. DOE refuses to help us. Shame on them.
Is this the same DOE which helped Christina out of a similar but much, much larger problem? Aren’t charters public schools? Shame on DOE for forgetting that.