State awards federal grants for new, expanding charter schools

The Delaware Department of Education has awarded funds to five charter schools as part of a $10.4 million federal grant Delaware won in October to strengthen the state’s charter school system.

 

The following sub-grants were awarded based on how the charters plan to:

  • Increase academic achievement for all students in the school as well as educationally disadvantaged students;
  • Collaborate to share best practices with district and charter schools;
  • Engage the families of educationally disadvantaged children on school choice opportunities with a focus on Delaware’s rural and urban areas;
  • Leverage partnerships with local agencies (i.e. social services, behavioral health, mental health, educational support, job placement, before/after care) to enhance school services and ensure sustainability.

 

School Funds Awarded
First State Montessori School $832,363
Las Americas ASPIRA $750,000
Newark Charter School $550,000
Providence Creek Academy $50,000
Sussex Montessori School $800,000
                                        Total Awarded $2,982,363

 

New charter schools interested in opening in Delaware and highly effective existing schools looking to add seats or additional locations were eligible to apply for the grant.

 

Funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program will be distributed over five years to support:

 

  • Sharing best practices between charter schools and other public schools;
  • Evaluating and enhancing the impact of charter schools on student achievement, families and communities;
  • Strengthening the charter school authorization process; and
  • Providing subgrants for the planning, program design and initial implementation of new charter schools and expansion and replication of highly effective existing charter schools.

 

The grant also will help the Delaware Department of Education to improve its charter authorization process by enhancing reporting to include additional measures, providing technical assistance to charter school stakeholders and addressing policy to strengthen authorization practices.

 

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006


Committee recommends probation, conditions for Odyssey Charter

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) today voted to recommend placing Odyssey Charter School on probation, requiring conditions be met for the school to retain its charter.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 8 in Wilmington with written public comment accepted through July 12. After reviewing the record, including public hearing transcripts, submitted public comment, the CSAC findings and Odyssey’s response, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting will make her decision regarding the school’s future at the July 18 State Board of Education meeting.

Should the Secretary decide to accept CSAC’s recommendations and the State Board assent to her decision, the school would have until December to make substantial progress on the conditions, a timeline that is in line with the school’s charter renewal application that begins this fall. Conditions can be included as part of a charter renewal.

Odyssey Charter School was placed on formal review this spring due to governance issues. CSAC’s recommendation is the school’s charter be placed on probation with the following conditions:

•         Odyssey’s board revise its bylaws such that
o   The majority of members are not members of the AHEPA Family organizations.
o   A nominating committee consisting of only the non-AHEPA Family board members nominates potential future non-AHEPA Family board members for the non-AHEPA Family board member vacancies and appoints them through a fair and transparent nomination/selection process.
o   AHEPA Family may select its members in its own process that may or may not be open to the public and may or may not include individuals who are not members of AHEPA Family organizations, but AHEPA Family members must be appointed by the AHEPA Family in a manner that provides gender balance among AHEPA Family members.
o   Odyssey board officer positions will be annually nominated from the floor; any Odyssey board member will be eligible to be an officer, and each board member has the equal right to nominate and vote for officers unless recused due to conflict of interest.
o   A process will be established to nominate and elect from the board each year a vice-president/president-elect who serves one year and serves automatically as president the next.
o   The office of president will annually rotate between AHEPA Family and non-AHEPA Family.
o   Committee members and committee chairs will be selected and approved by the board in a fair and transparent process, and members/chairs will be reconfirmed at least annually by the board.
o   Any authority previously granted under current Article V (Contracts, Checks, Deposits and Funds) Section 1 (Contracts) will be revoked/nullified, and the reconstituted board may grant new authorization if needed.
o   The procedure to amend the bylaws will contain a provision to introduce the amendment and vote on the amendment in two separate meetings of the board on different days at least 14 calendar days apart.
o   Proposed amendments will be publicized among the Odyssey board, staff and families at least seven days prior to introduction or voting.
o   Out-of-state travel funded fully or partially using Odyssey funds, whether directly paid by Odyssey or reimbursed with funds under Odyssey control, will be approved by the board prior to travel.
o   As a result of the conflict of interest provisions, AHEPA Family members will be explicitly required to recuse themselves from matters directly impacting AHEPA Family organizations.

•         Odyssey Charter School shall recover the following sums spent in a manner inconsistent with the charter:
o   $1,597.59 for the AHEPA Conference in Atlantic City, NJ paid out of Odyssey funds
o   $91,487.69 used to establish and operate the Ithaka corporation from Odyssey funds

•         Odyssey will undergo an investigatory audit with scope of work approved by the Delaware Department of Education and the Auditor of Accounts Office at Odyssey’s expense with any findings to be repaid as recommended by the Auditor of Accounts.

•         Odyssey will develop a plan for how to improve communication and trust between the board and the Odyssey community, including staff and families.

•         Odyssey will develop a plan to strengthen the capacity of its Citizens’ Budget Oversight Committee and increase its access to information.

•         Odyssey board representatives and DOE representatives will meet at least once a month to discuss and evaluate progress toward meeting these conditions with jointly written reports sent to the Secretary and State Board.

CSAC will issue its final report outlining these conditions no later than Friday. The public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on July 8 in the second-floor auditorium of the Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French Street in Wilmington.

Written public comment may be submitted through July 12, including by email to infocso@doe.k12.de.us.

Bunting will make her decision at the State Board of Education meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. on July 18 in the Cabinet Room of the Townsend Building, 401 Federal Street in Dover.

Odyssey Charter School is an 1,800-student school that serves students in elementary through high school. It is located on Lancaster Pike in Wilmington.

Find more information, including all related documents, on Odyssey’s formal review here.

Media contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006


DDOE supporting Design Thinking Academy students as school leaders plan closure at end of academic year

Design Thinking Academy leaders have informed the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) that the Newark-area school will close its doors at the end of this school year and relinquish its charter due to low enrollment. The school’s senior class will graduate as scheduled.

 

About 216 students were enrolled for next school year, below the 300 minimum required by the school’s charter.

 

“Design Thinking Academy’s Board of Directors deserves credit for making the difficult decision to relinquish the charter now, recognizing that the low enrollment would inevitably lead to financial challenges that would make it impossible for the school to provide its students with the academic program they deserve,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said. “While this was not an easy decision, it was necessary, and the board’s resolve to make it now gives DTA’s students more time to make plans for next school year.”

 

DDOE, in coordination with district and charter schools, is assisting Design Thinking leaders as they help families enroll the students in new schools for the fall. The students may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into other district or charter schools that are accepting students.

 

DDOE, in collaboration with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, also will engage with educators about job openings in other district and charter schools and benefit information.

 

Questions regarding Design Thinking Academy’s closure process should be directed to the school leadership. Families seeking assistance in enrolling their students in new schools should contact the school office at (302) 292-5450.

 

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, 302-735-4006


State seeks grant applications for new, expanding charter schools

The Delaware Department of Education is seeking grant applications for new charter schools interested in opening in Delaware or highly effective existing schools looking to add seats or additional locations.

The funds are part of the $10.4 million federal grant Delaware won in October to strengthen the state’s charter school system. Funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program will be distributed over five years to support:
• Sharing best practices between charter schools and other public schools;
• Evaluating and enhancing the impact of charter schools on student achievement, families and communities;
• Strengthening the charter school authorization process; and
• Providing subgrants for the planning, program design and initial implementation of new charter schools and expansion and replication of highly effective existing charter schools.

The grant also will help the Delaware Department of Education to improve its charter authorization process by enhancing reporting to include additional measures, providing technical assistance to charter school stakeholders and addressing policy to strengthen authorization practices.

Those applying for subgrants from the state must show how they will use the funds to:
• Increase academic achievement for all students in the school as well as educationally disadvantaged students;
• Collaborate to share best practices with district and charter schools;
• Engage the families of educationally disadvantaged children on school choice opportunities with a focus on Delaware’s rural and urban areas;
• Leverage partnerships with local agencies (i.e. social services, behavioral health, mental health, educational support, job placement, before/after care) to enhance school services and ensure sustainability.

The department released its request for applications (find information online here). Applicants must notify their intent to apply by April 30. Applications are due May 31, and awards will be announced in July.

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, (302) 735-4006


Delaware wins $10.4 million federal grant to strengthen charter school system

Delaware has won a $10.4 million federal grant to strengthen the state’s charter school system, including improved collaboration with other public schools.

Funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program will be distributed over four years to support:

  • Sharing best practices between charter schools and other public schools;
  • Evaluating and enhancing the impact of charter schools on student achievement, families and communities;
  • Strengthening the charter school authorization process; and
  • Providing subgrants for the planning, program design and initial implementation of new charter schools and expansion and replication of highly effective existing charter schools.

Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said the state always is looking for effective practices that can be used in schools across the state. The state’s role is to help share what is working across district and charter lines.

“Delaware designed charter schools with the legislative intent to improve education. This grant will assist the Delaware Department of Education in leveraging best practices and innovative ideas to help all Delaware students, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status, to have access to a high-quality education,” she said.

The grant also will help the Delaware Department of Education to improve its charter authorization process by enhancing reporting to include additional measures, providing technical assistance to charter school stakeholders and addressing policy to strengthen authorization practices.

Delaware charter schools applying for subgrants from the state must show how they will use the funds to:

  • Increase academic achievement for all students in the school as well as educationally disadvantaged students;
  • Collaborate to share best practices with district and charter schools;
  • Engage the families of educationally disadvantaged children on school choice opportunities with a focus on Delaware’s rural and urban areas;
  • Leverage partnerships with local agencies (i.e. social services, behavioral health, mental health, educational support, job placement, before/after care) to enhance school services and ensure sustainability.

“Schools seeking subgrants must demonstrate that they have a proven track record of success in providing a quality education to all students and supporting the achievement of educationally disadvantaged students,” Bunting said.

Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, said Delaware’s charter school community is excited for the opportunities this federal grant will provide.

“I have been advocating for an increase in the U.S. Department of Education Charter School Program Fund for the past six years,” Massett said. “I saw how previous grants from this fund positively impacted the lives of children in Delaware, and when the federal funding ran out, I knew we needed to get it back. Charter schools are an incredible choice for our children, but the funding challenges to open, expand, or replicate highly effective charter schools can sometimes be too much. The Delaware Charter Schools Network is excited to partner with the Delaware Department of Education on this grant that will open opportunities and provide more choice for students throughout the state.”

 

Media Contact: Alison May, alison.may@doe.k12.de.us, (302) 735-4006