The Pencader Charter School dilemma

Last year when the Delaware Department of Education seemed poised to close Reach Academy and Pencader. Many in the community came to the aid of these charter schools. Even a few school board members of traditional school districts who are open about not wanting to authorize charter school in their district came to the aid of Reach and Pencader. Did it turn into a game of trying to save these charter schools or to take-on the iron fist of DE DOE charter school leadership that runs its own agenda? Yes, I did enjoy the battle. However, I’ve made some friends and fans along the way. I review all the monthly DE DOE progress reports on these two schools and the seem well on they way of coming off DE DOE death watch. However, with Pencader comes a new twist.

The incident where Mr. Lewis told a female student to stop acting like a spoiled bitch set-off fireworks. This incident came on the heels of more serious incidents involving sexual misconduct at others public schools. What Mr. Lewis said was inappropriate and far from being criminal. If this incident with Mr. Lewis happen prior to all the other incidents involving others at other schools in Delaware there wouldn’t of been a heighten concern. Whatever happen to the teacher who “physically” interfered with the SRO officers at Moyer? Still on the job?

I originally comment that he be suspended for the remainder of the year and be required to take anger management classes. But retreated back and suggested 30 day suspension. However, I only have one view from the outside and the Pencader board had another from inside. If there wasn’t a video of this incident on the internet would we have heard about it?

The following is from the official Delaware Department of Education Pencader progress report March 2012 present to the state board of education at April 2012 meeting.

DOE staff met with representatives from Pencader on January 5, 2012. Bill Bentz provided an overview of the school’s budget and the presentation was thorough. There was conversation at the March 29 meeting with Pencader concerning their enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year. Early indications are that they will struggle with enrollment. We will know more after the April 1st count is available.

DOE asked questions concerning the negative publicity of Mr Lewis, the school leader’s husband around directing abusive language toward a student. This was before the teacher was dismissed and we are hopeful  that will help with enrollment.

Its obvious DE DOE was concern with the impact of Mr. Lewis’s behavior drawing negative publicity that could impact enrollment which is already fragile. What message was DE DOE sending Pencader’s school board? To me it was a message to terminate Mr. Lewis’s services.

By now many of you know Mr. Lewis is the spouse of Pencader school leaders Mrs. Lewis. I can only imagine the stress the incident brought to that household.  And despite all they “are” good people. Mrs. Lewis and the Pencader school board has been doing an amazing job turning Pencader around. Look at the progress report and see items noted “completed”. Pencader biggest problem is the financial debt the board and school leader inherited. School enrollment is the main source of revenue for all charter schools.

Its really sad to see Pencader imploded because of the Lewis incident.

If the reports by other blogger are true in regards to the Delaware Charter Schools Network involved where the director joined Mrs. Lewis in the call for all Pencader board of directors to step-down, I must say I am shock to hear such intrusion. To me it sounds like the seedbed for Innovative Schools involvement is being laid and down the road Mrs. Lewis services may be terminated.

Despite to obvious personal rifts going on Mrs. Lewis and the board have the right stuff to keep Pencader moving forward. I think each person should do some soul searching and ask if all of this fighting is in the best interest of Pencader students? Those students and parents took a chance on Pencader despite the DE DOE black cloud hanging over their heads re: probation. Those students and parents believe in the Pencader system yet, the adults within are acting like spoiled bitches. Adults stop and work together and save Pencader for the children. It should be about them and them only!

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33 responses to “The Pencader Charter School dilemma

  1. So much on this blog is charter vs. traditional public schools. I guess my question is who runs a better school, bureaucrats or corporations?

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  2. kilroysdelaware

    When we get from charter Vs. Traditional public school to charters = traditional public schools there wouldn’t be anything to blog about. We don’t really know which is a better school! Both fail and succeed. Choice is good but we need to address the charter school laws.

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  3. It saddens me to see that assumptions are being made about the ‘Lewis household,’ the Charter Network Executive Director, and other statements that have been made about Pencader. I have to go back to what I know as someone who spends time in various schools. The ‘Lewis incident,’ as it is now being called, was blown way out of proportion and Dr. Lewis has not permitted this situation to affect how the school is run. Teachers and parents are outraged for many other reasons that led up to that incident, none of which have been publicized, as this incident was. Take a look at the news from Cherry Hill about an educator who actually called a student a bastard. It was handled appropriately without the infighting. The issue here is that the situation did not call for termination. Husband or not, the shame of it all is that Dr. Lewis, has not been able to be vocal because no matter what she said, it would be construed as protecting her husband, where, in fact, being the impartial leader that she is, would be supporting a decorated teacher. We really need to put this all in perspective. People that know the Lewis’ know that they have worked together for years educating children and doing a phenomenal job. This needs to stop. As mentioned in many of these posts, Pencader is a great school – their scores are good – they graduate college ready students – and they deserve the respect and support of the public – they have gone from 1.5 million in debt to being in the black – that does not happen with leaders and staff who don’t know what they are doing – and through all of it – the education of their students never suffered – stop this and support them rather than playing the blame game – the only ones getting hurt through this are kids and their parents – and you all call yourselves educators and supporting our education systems? Really?

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  4. ConcernedParent

    I still think the board must be trusted to have made an educated decision. Last year the majority of the board was removed because they were supposedly not competent. New members were put in place. Are we now saying the new set of people aren’t competent either? Who is making the decision of who is competent or not? It seems Mrs. Lewis was a main person saying the old board wasn’t competent & is the same one saying it this time. Is it reasonable to assume that two full sets of boards were/are incompetent?

    The board cannot disclose if there were other incidents/situations that led to Mr. Lewis’ firing. That is confidential. I would agree that letting someone go over the one incident wouldn’t be right. My understanding is that wasn’t the only piece of information. I can share that because I am not on the board. Yes, some students and parents like Mr. Lewis. However, has an investigation been done into what has gone on the past couple of years. Have past administrators, teachers, and students been interviewed to get thorough information on his performance? Unfortunately, my sources have said that there have been things covered up the past two years. There have not been the needed checks and balances in place. The school leader cannot be the one in charge of discipliining her husband. The disciplinarians with insight from last year were let go.

    I feel bad for Pencader. I would like to see it succeed. Something needs to be done, but I am thinking it is not the board that needs to be replaced. Administration and staff must support the board’s decisions. If you don’t have support and respect, there is insubordination like Mr. Arzinger said. If insubordination is allowed to continue, there is no hope.

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  5. All good points…and to my knowledge (I am not on the board either) none of that has occurred and/or proven. Lewis did not request the past board to step down, it was the current Board President and the State of Delaware’s suggestion. Lewis does not have that kind of power – nor does any charter school leader, or principal in a traditional public school for that matter. You talk about cover ups, but this administration has been completely transparent – talk to kids and teachers – talk to parents – are there some not happy – absolutely – you will find that anywhere – but most feel that this administration has done a phenomenal job – just ask the people that maintain the building – the administration is on campus working with parents and students all day, every day, and many weekends. The things covered up are the disastrous handling of operations and kids playing sports that were ineligible prior to Lewis’ tenure – remember, that she only came on board in this position a year ago – cover ups occurred prior to that – not in the year she has been there, and all of that has been cleaned up by her and the staff. The position is hard and no one wants it – certainly the past administration didn’t or the job would have gotten done and the monetary situation would not have occurred. Bottom line – hearsay is detrimental to this and any school – people need to really know what happened rather than fight this out on blogs with half truths and innuendo.

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  6. kilroysdelaware

    Jack if it weren’t for YouTube the Bitch incident would of never had been made public. We need better transparency in public and charter schools and wouldn’t be nice if all board meetings were recorded and put online? Yea I catch hell for those half-truths but many do prove true,

    “but most feel that this administration has done a phenomenal job”

    Pretty much they have and are slowly crawling out of DE DOE probation, But the “Bitch” incident took what was working professionally and appears to have made it a personal war.It needs to stop and focus on the mission! The kids!

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  7. ConcernedParent

    Jack…I believe you are Mrs. Lewis… Your signature … give you away.

    Are you saying that kids that say they can hear Mr. Lewis showting through closed doors on a daily basis aren’t true? Incidents of physcial contact are untrue? Kids that witnessed this are not telling the truth???? The using of the b word toward a student’s behavior was the first time in 40+ years. A month ago this crazy behavior just appeared out of nowhere? Highly doubtful.

    It is nonsense to say that Mrs. Lewis was not instrumental in the removing of many of the previous staff and board. Lewis worked hand in hand with Minnehan to have the old board removed. Now, she is trying to work to get this board removed. People in Dover know what is going on. They are watching closely. If Pencader wants to stay open, it needs to start acting professionally all around. The firing happened. It is done. If there is legal action against it, take it up in the courts. Don’t hurt the kids and bad mouth the board & try to have it removed.

    It is strange that a member of the current board just got back from spending a week in Europe with Mr. and Mrs. Lewis chaperoning Pencader students on a school trip (after the firing). There are pictures of the board member arm in arm with Mr. and Mrs. Lewis. Conflict of interest??? Now all of a sudden that board member is working with the Lewises to oust the other board members?

    What about the Pencader website and email distribution lists being controlled by Mrs. Lewis’ son. He is volunteering for this. This seems like something confidential that a volunteer shouldn’t have complete control over. Up until a couple of weeks ago before the firing, the three Lewises had a tremendous amount of control of the school.

    The Monday morning minutes that have been on the website are no longer going to be published. This is where the notice about a board meeting that Mrs. Minnehan wasn’t invited to was published. Ironic that now all of a sudden there won’t be a written copy of the Monday morning info. No documentation, no evidence.

    Saying to leave the school alone is ridiculous. People are using the News Journal to ask for the public’s help in getting Lewis back. Leave the school alone unless you are going to help with your thoughts on things, Jack????

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  8. ConcernedParent

    Jack,

    Just reread your latest post. Are you kidding me about the administration being completely transparent? I have been at some of the meetings. Sometmes the story isn’t even the same in the same meeting.

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  9. ConcernedParent

    If the News Journal was correct about the b-word incident, it said that Minnehan was told a bad word wasn’t used. She was later told otherwise. Saying one thing and then another to your boss isn’t a good thing if you want to keep your job.

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  10. ohh another super sleuth, you found the public facebook page with Europe pictures. It was transparent so what’s the problem?
    Why did you think anyone was trying to overthrow the board anyway? Because you read it on a blog?
    (thank God he was allowed to go, not great chaperone to student ratio if he didn’t. Do you think he broke some law or something?)
    Have you ever been in a classroom with the door closed and the door in the next classroom closed? you can always hear people in other classrooms. So you are going by what kids in a different room say? How many kids have you talked to about Mr. Lewis? My guess, 2.

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  11. How sad that everyone keeps playing the blame game. Take ‘Concerned Parents’ advice. Let it go and let everyone just teach the kids – after all it is about them.

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  12. anotherpencaderparent

    Pencadermom –

    Why on earth was a terminated employee permitted to chaperone a school trip? especially one to another country for an extended period of time? Seems like poor judgement to me. There wasn’t another employee or board member who was willing to chaperone? that just reinforces what I’ve witnessed firsthand with employee moral. I am just heart-broken.

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  13. why wouldn’t he be allowed? Maybe the parents thought he was terminated wrongly so weren’t worried about it.

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  14. anotherpencaderparent

    Wow! I’m just speechless.

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  15. “Wow! I’m just speechless.”- good, guess that means we can agree to disagree.
    I wish there were more teachers like Mr. Lewis. I pick strict over letting the kids run the show any day. My kid tells me about some teachers who let you sleep in class. (and it’s not just Pencader, it’s a big joke with kids in lots of schools) If you would fall asleep in Mr. Lewis class, he would drop a book next to you to wake you up. 🙂 (I used to have teachers who did that too) The kids learn pretty quickly I guess, which classes you can take a nap in and which ones you could never get away with it in. Mr. Lewis class was always the latter. That might prove helpful when it comes time to take the SAT 🙂
    Still not sure why you think the chaperone thing is such a big deal. Do you think he some kind of monster or something? geez this thing is so out of control. btw, not very easy to just put someone else in his place. You are assuming someone else had the money, the passport, the time to get ready. ridiculous

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  16. anotherpencaderparent

    We certainly do disagree. I expect my child’s teachers to have classroom management skills. I know some who do this better than others. While I do not want the kids running the school, nor sleeping in class, I do not believe that any adult has the right to talk to a child the way Mr. Lewis did. A teacher with good classroom management skills would never have needed to devolve to that level to reach a child or a teenage girl. I believe control can be achieved without resorting to such tactics. Is this how the teachers at Wilmington Charter or Newark Charter talk to their students? I think not. Their school leaders would never tolerate such lack of decorum from their teachers. And it should not be tolerated at Pencader, either.

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  17. I thought I wrote it above somewhere but guess I didn’t. I do not like that he used the word bitch. I do think there should have been some kind of consequence. Just not the consequence of being fired. just my opinion of course, just didn’t want you to think that I was ok with that word choice. Personally I don’t care if a high school teacher yells now and then. I had teachers in high school who yelled, and some who talked too fast and complicated, and one talked to himself out loud and one who was nice to anyone who was an athlete and ignored everyone else. All kinds of traits and personalities, some traits not so nice. You know, like the real world.

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  18. I know nothing about the teachers at CSW so I can’t answer that. Newark Charter is not high school so I wouldn’t compare the two anyway. I do know that when I told friends about this I heard some stories from a couple of those people about teachers and coaches at other schools. I am not going to tell those stories as they were told to me in confidence by friends. The difference, no one was video taping

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  19. ConcernedParent

    After a long night of not sleeping because of thinking about blogs, I have decided I am not going to post on them anymore. Many topics cause a lot of emotion in people. I like to think people want the best for everyone. That seems to get messed up as arguments go back and forth. Sorry about letting my emotions get involved on this topic. Please work together to come up with good solutions for everyone.

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  20. kilroysdelaware

    But somewhere in those arguments is the truth. That’s once you get past the name calling. We often hear a call for civilized conversation and the first person of group raises concerns will be accused of being a naysayer. Markell and many of the business round-table folks call anyone who even question charter schools, Race to The Top or Common Core Standards naysayers. Just drink the Kool-Aid and trust us is what they want! So why was DSTP and NCLB failures ?

    Friends are your worst enemies and emotionally they can hurt you the most. However, here on blogs don’t let others push your buttons,

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  21. Great post Kilroy. The best part about posting on blogs IS the disagreement. That’s how you learn different facets/perspectives of an issue and challenge/stengthen your own views. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t know the entire back story on Pencader, but the Lewis decision really comes across as knee jerk and heavy-handed. If not, lay all the cards out there so everyone can understand why it was necessary. We keep talking about what lessons are we teaching the kids. What about the lesson that everyone, including adults, make mistakes, have to face consequences but can redeem themselves. That said, backdooring the BOD is an absolute no no and should not be tolerated.

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  22. Concerned parent, you are wrong. the world would be a better place if people did want the best for everyone, but people only care about themselves.

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  23. Concerned parent, I have had sleepless nights too. If you really want to have sleepless nights, go to transparent christina and read a blog by a CSD board member who exposes school issues (which is fine) but seems to love it. Maybe when he wrote about Pencader the other day he didn’t realize there are real teenagers at the school. Teenagers who spent last summer not knowing if they would have a school to come back to. Teenagers who might not really want to be forced to go to another school and finish their high school career, doing all the fun activities that seniors do, and walking for graduation, with people they don’t even know, leaving all of their friends and teachers behind, and possibly leaving their teacher recommendation part of their college apps blank because there are no teachers. Maybe he doesn’t think about those things when he ends his story with “great theater and I want to see more”

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  24. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts…and since you’re not inside my head, you just can’t and don’t know my motivations….

    PM, what lessons are being taught there now?…and I am not talking about ELA and Math……

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  25. anotherpencaderparent

    Pencadermom,

    This weekend has been difficult for me, too. For the longest time, I felt I needed to keep my opinions to myself so that my child could continue to have a “normal’ school year. It wasn’t until I read that letter from Kendall Massett on the christina blog that I realized it wasn’t just me. Someone else actually sees the insanity in all of this. His comments may be in bad taste, but I realize that only one side of all this commotion has a voice. And that’s why I finally decided to voice mine albeit anonymously. I am glad that I am transferring my child out, even though it’ll be difficult. But, what I realized is that right now the people running our school are more concerned with adults that with the kids. And I am fearful that won’t change anytime soon.

    I chose Pencader even after last summer’s nightmare. I was proud the school survived. I want to see the school overcome this – but the indicators in my opinion is that it may not be viable any longer. The enrollment number I’ve been given if accurate indicates the state could get involved or revoke the charter. My child needs stability and as hard as it is, I don’t think I can stomach another fight for Pencader especially when it feels like the adults are now working against themselves.

    Withdrawal is my effort to stabilize my child’s high school education. It’s a choice I feel is being forced upon me. But, it’s my only option.

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  26. Oh, my goodness. Kilroys, you are seriously being taken for a fool. The school leader is arrogant. To the point that she is wasting this school’s money faster than they count it. The ONLY reason this school is “looking” like it is succeeding and staying on budget is because they do not pay their bills!

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  27. kilroysdelaware

    Susan, this is what DE DOE is report on their monthly condition report.Spill the beans!! Are you suggesting DOE Dan isn’t factoring in invoices that have been sitting???

    http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/ddoe/sbe/docs/Pencader4-2012.pdf
    “DOE met with Pencader Charter School on March, 29, 2012 and
    reviewed the updated budget versus actual expenditures. While there is still some uncertainty with their budget because much of the history by category could not be created it appears that Pencader is closely monitoring expenditures on a monthly basis and appears to be on track to finish the year viable. It is possible that they may be able to
    complete the year without taking the $300,000 loan offered by the
    landlord”

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  28. I have no idea if they squeeze by without taking a loan. If they do, it’s only because they don’t pay their bills. For example, Lehanes Bus Company. I used to work there…..they owe them thousands of dollars. They used a lame excuse like the buses were late all the time. Yet, they continued to allow them to bus the kids the entire year. I know the school is bleeding in legal fees from not paying their bills. Lehanes just settled with them after having to file a lawsuit. I am sure there must be others.
    Email me privately. I will spill the beans.

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  29. Sorry about the new name. I used a different computer earlier, and I couldn’t remember what name I had used before. It was not intentional.

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  30. kilroysdelaware

    No loan!!!!!!!

    “For so long as Pencader shall remain on probation, it shall not incur any additional debt without the prior written consent of the Department. By June 30, 2013. Pencader Business and Finance Charter School shall have also repaid in full the $300,000.00 loan from Greggo & Ferrara, and shall be debt free”.

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  31. I would bet my whole paycheck that they will have to take a loan and then some……….

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  32. And DOE Dan does know they are not paying all their bills!

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