DOE Delays Newark Charter School Vote

Filed in Delaware by on March 15, 2012

Seems like the ACLU letter slowed things down for now.  Nichole Dobo has the info:

Meece tells TNJ he’s concerned, saying this isn’t how the process should work. The ACLU letter came after the deadline for comments closed, Meece said. However, Lowery told him to tell parents they didn’t need to come to today’s meeting.

DOE spokeswoman Alison Kepner said she had no knowledge of any delay.

Meece says he got the heads up from Lowery early this morning and he then passed this info onto NCS parents.  Which means if you were a recipient of an email from Mr. Meece, then you knew the outcome of the public meeting before, ya know, the public.  I feel bad for those people who took time out of their day to attend a meeting whose outcome was already announced to a chosen few.  Hell, why even bother with public meetings!

NCS parents/supporters are also claiming the ACLU has apologized to Newark Charter School:

Proud NCS Parent of Two said:

Email from the school director said he rec’d call from Lowery saying it was postponed due to letter from ACLU/DE. Rec’d another email stating he talked to Pres @ ACLU and gave her the correct information and she apologized & wished she hadn’t written letter. Keep us posted on what you hear from the meeting! Thanks!

Greg, on March 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm said:I was told the ‘decision’ was moving to the 4/19 meeting. I also heard that NCS has reached out to the ACLU president and that they would not have submitted this letter if they knew all the facts… HA, lovely.

I also called the board # on the website and the lady who picked up the phone said the vote was still today, but she might not have known that the recommendation was to delay. #confused… but I think the vote is not 4/19. However, it would not surprise me if they did vote today… who knows.

If anyone has these emails… I’d be interested in seeing them.  I’m also trying to confirm the ACLU apology.

UPDATE: Sources say the claim that ACLU apologized to Newark Charter School is NOT true.

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Comments (22)

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  1. John Young says:

    Pandora, if you get these e-mail can you try to hel explain how Kepner has no knowledg of any delay? We sat there for three hours to get a recommend to postpone the recommendation from the Secy. A good decision, but it appears some may have been privileged enough to not have to have driven to Dover. I heard a media person not to happy…..

  2. PBaumbach says:

    The ACLU did not apologize. Meece lied to the parents. No surprise there.

  3. Mike Matthews says:

    What the hell is in that NCS water? Better yet, what the hell is going on at DoE that they felt it appropriate to release this decision before, y’know, the actual meeting?

    This Meece guys sounds unhinged.

  4. pandora says:

    I’m trying to get the emails (plural).

  5. DontDestroyChristina has a link to the transcript of the meeting last week and Meece’s first email. He states that Lowery’s delay is only in part due to the ACLU letter.

    Dear Parents,

    Today is the day the State Board of Education was to vote on our expansion plan. The Secretary of Education informed me today that she plans to postpone her decision to make a recommendation on Newark Charter School’s modification application until the next State Board meeting, which is April 19.

    According to state law, �If an approving authority decides to consider a charter application, the approving authority must rule on whether to approve the application at a public meeting within 90 working days after December 31.� Newark Charter School’s application was submitted on December 19, 2011 so an April 19, 2012 determination will exceed 90 days.

    One reason cited for this postponement was a letter from ACLU (dated March 13). According to the State Board of Education�s policy, information received after the public hearing (held March 7th) may not be considered.

    The sole issue raised by the ACLU was about the school participating in the School Nutrition Program. The Department of Education has told Newark Charter School over an 11-year period that participation is not required. I had already informed The Secretary and the State Board President that the school will participate in this program next year, so we thought this particular issue had been put to rest.

    The five-mile radius issue was also raised. This preference is permitted in Delaware’s charter school law and it is consistent with the Neighborhood Schools Act requiring public schools in New Castle County to send students to schools closest to their homes. Other district schools and charter schools have similar geographic attendance areas.

    The DDOE Charter School Accountability Committee has already voted unanimously, on two separate occasions that the school�s modification application has met all 14 of the allowable criteria and this Committee has recommended that the Secretary of Education approve it.

    Gregory Meece School Director

  6. pandora says:

    Thanks for posting that, Nancy. Now we need to see the second email.

    Email #1: “Email from the school director said he rec’d call from Lowery saying it was postponed due to letter from ACLU/DE.”

    Email #2: “Rec’d another email stating he talked to Pres @ ACLU and gave her the correct information and she apologized & wished she hadn’t written letter.”

    And look at this comment in the News Journal: Lowery said she will “take that criticism,” but she didn’t want Newark Charter supporters to be “blindsided” by the delay.

    Singling out a group for special consideration at the detriment of other groups is becoming the Charter motto… and apparently DOE’s as well.

    And I doubt Hollywood could cast a better villain in this scenario than Meece. I truly think his personality has added fuel to the fire.

  7. John Young says:

    Greg Meece is not a villain, IMO. Just like John Kowalko deserves none of the NCS vitriol he is getting. Everybody is fighting for kids: some for some, some for all.

    Sure there are pitched disagreements about NCS, but they shouldn’t be about NCS. They have basically followed the law and the advice of the state’s regulatory agency for 12 years perfectly. They have birthed and grown a school that performs highly, very highly. Those opposed have legitimate concerns that ONE reason this performance is so high is the socioeconomic makeup of the school which does not look like the surrounding area by any measure. This brings lotteries and lunches and selection criteria to the fore. If NCS had a magic pedagogical bullet that is making their scores better, DE charter law compels them to share with the rest of public education (as I read the law). I don’t believe they do.I believe they have really good teachers. I think CSD has really good teachers. I think most districts are made up of many more good teachers than not.

    It feels like some of the key players in the drama are taking on unsavory monikers as the heat on the subject has risen dramatically. No doubt, both sides have at times abandoned decorum, just go read the comments at Kilroy for the last 14 days….

    All of this said it boils down to one thing: The LAW. It’s bad, and at this point everyone seems to know it, if not in their mind, certainly in their gut.

    I would like to see our Governor lead on the issue. Right now.

    Ask for the legislature to take on the law. Not necessarily in this session. Appoint a task force: DOE, Supers, Charters, School Boards, PARENTS, PARENTS, MORE PARENTS. come back next January with full blown Charter law revision. Make sure the new law addresses the holes this law has had from the beginning but are only now seen so much more clearly since NCLB, RTTT, Neighborhood Schools, end of busing, have all occurred since the Charter Law became law.

    I agree with pandora that fuel has been added to the fire precipitously, first by opponents for deigning to even challenge the application on social justice/equity of access grounds, then by parents fighting for their kids which is not only not a crime, it’s expected behavior that all parents exhibit. Let’s not have villains, lets go fix a bad law.

  8. PBaumbach says:

    Meece wrote “According to state law, �If an approving authority decides to consider a charter application, the approving authority must rule on whether to approve the application at a public meeting within 90 working days after December 31.� Newark Charter School’s application was submitted on December 19, 2011 so an April 19, 2012 determination will exceed 90 days.”

    It is too bad that a school director can’t figure out that there are 89 work days between 12/19/11 and 4/19/12.

    There are only 79 work days between 12/31/11 and 4/19/12.

    It’s called Excel, and the function is NETWORKDAYS. Give it a shot.

    I guess that it is good that Meece is an administrator and not a teacher.

  9. Mike O. says:

    The transcript for the 3/7 NCS hearing was printed in a spread-out format that resulted in a 457-page PDF document. I converted it to a more reasonable 35-page Word document, suitable for copying sections for quoting… click here to download.

  10. pandora says:

    Meece has brought a lot of this on himself. He has added to the drama and helped give the controversy the feel of a Shakespearean tragedy. And I used the word villain in a theatrical sense – mainly because Mr. Meece employs emotional and theatrical language to make his case.

    Exhibit A – Mr. Meece’s News Journal Editorial:

    Years ago, someone explained to me a phenomenon called the “crab bucket syndrome.” As crabs are caught and tossed into a bucket, the first crab tries to climb out to save its life. Other crabs, seeing his escape plan, grab hold of the first crab’s legs, which pulls him back into the bucket. Eventually, all the crabs perish. In schools, this is a metaphor for, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” This is what happens when a group tries to “pull down” any other school that shows success can be achieved.

    This is happening in Newark, where a group is trying to stop one of our most successful public schools, Newark Charter School, from expanding. “We need only one high school in Newark,” they chant. No comparisons. No competition. No choices. And then comes a barrage of misguided and misleading accusations explaining why a Superior-rated Blue Ribbon School, ranked second in the country in reading is, actually, not so good.

    That’s a lot of emotion and theatrics, and while Charter School supporters may cast him as a hero, others see a man willing to escalate a situation to achieve his goal; a man quite comfortable with labeling people who question his vision as merely jealous (a reoccurring theme with many, not all, NCS supporters) and wanting to pull down success.

    Calling people who disagree with you “jealous” and painting them as “wanting to pull down success” draws a stark line between the two groups and inflames the situation.

    In today’s NJ article he says: “Meece was unhappy with the delay and that the added time would allow the controversy to continue.

    “It’s not doing anybody any good,” he said.

    Again, who is anybody? And why is fully discussing the controversy (and Charter Law) a bad thing? Mr. Meece has his agenda, which is fine, but I can’t ignore how his own words have cast him, dramatically and theatrically, as hero or villain, depending on which side of the issue you’re on. And I’m thinking he’s quite comfortable in the roles.

  11. PBaumbach says:

    Pandora, thank you for keeping this issue so well covered over the past few weeks!

  12. pandora says:

    Thanks, Mike. I was working my way through the transcript and it was a nightmare to read. So, honestly, thank you!

  13. mediawatch says:

    John is right on target here, but there’s one element he did not mention. Not only is our Charter School law badly outdated, but the policies/procedures employed by the charter school monitors within DOE are woefully inadequate and inconsistent. (See the evaluation completed in March 2011 by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). Following up on this report, the state has commissioned NACSA to develop recommendations on how to improve its processes — and, the last I heard, that report is due in June or July. )
    The approvals previously granted NCS, and the blind eye turned toward its non-fulfillment of certain requirements, are typical of the flawed authorization/evaluation processes cited in this report.
    Given the prospect of multiple charters being established in downtown Wilmington in the next couple of years, it is essential that the state have in place legislation and authorization procedures that are appropriate for 21st century realities before additional charters are allowed to open.
    At this time, Gov. Markell and the General Assembly should be taking two actions:
    1. Place all pending charter school applications/reauthorizations on hold until the right now is to declare a moratorium on new charter applications until the NACSA report on how to overhaul the state’s processes can be reviewed and its recommendations implemented.
    2. Suspend acceptance of any new applications (e.g., for the schools that would be housed in the gifted BoA building) until a new law is put into place.
    Then, move ahead with John’s recommendation to create the task force, with broad professional and community input, to draft the sensible law we need going forward.

  14. Thanks Mike for the transcript doc link. I couldn’t find a quote that I took down in my notes during the meeting that disturbed me. One of the early speakers mentioned anonymous attackers on blogs which I didn’t see in a brief scanning.

    My testimony was slightly askew with some minor inaccuracies mostly due to the poor audio. Sitting in the back I could barely hear most speakers. Mr. Cartwell could have done a better job to remind people to hold the mic close and speak up.

  15. pandora says:

    Page 3, Mr. Meece’s comment, Nancy.

    For example, many of our vocal opponents have children on our waiting list right now, and almost everyone acknowledges our school’s success regardless of their position. We are all part of the Delaware public education system. We all understand its importance for the future of our state and our country. We are our children’s role models. What we say about our schools, our teachers, our school leaders, other parents, what we gossip about on anonymous blogs and in chat rooms, the mean-spirited jabs we make over the neighborhood fence or at the dinner table, is what our children learn.

  16. Geezer says:

    “Everybody is fighting for kids: some for some, some for all.”

    Keep on kidding yourself. Nobody is fighting for “all.” Some just think they are.

  17. John Young says:

    I will keep kidding myself then rather than succumb to your cynicism.

  18. Geezer says:

    And I will stay cynical rather than succumbing to your bullshit self-righteousness.

  19. pandora says:

    You know, I must be kidding myself, as well. Both of my children are in public high schools that I’m very pleased with, so I don’t really have a horse in this race.

    My concern has always been high poverty schools and the lack of equity. I would love to see high quality programs placed into these schools (whether trad. public or charter). All too often educational reforms in these schools take the form of uniforms and disciplinary programs only. That has to change.

  20. Mike O. says:

    About that transcript I posted earlier of the 3/7 NCS meeting:

    I just wanted to point out that the transcript was initially obtained by Nichole Dobo of the News Journal, who obtained it from the state and posted it on her blog yesterday, as she was live-blogging yet another meeting from the State Board of Education. The transcript posted by Nichole is the original and authoritative version. All I did was reformat it. Thanks, Nichole!

  21. John Young says:

    Keep on keepin on Geez.

  22. Pro-Charter says:

    Mr. John Young, you claim that you are fighting for “all children”. Great congratulations. Can you explain what you are doing for my kid. He is at NCS, he is in the 99 percentile consistently in National standardized tests and his DCAS scores are off the charts. He is small in size, belongs to a religious and racial minority and has thrived in a bullying free environment. He is used to students in his class who compete with him and are interested in excelling at everything. He is currently doing 10th and 11th grade math and college level physics. What can CSD offer him. He cannot go to Wilmington Charter because we live in Newark. do you think he deserves to go to Glasgow High! Do you even think he will be safe in Newark High were kids who beat up people are suspended only for half a day. Bullying is rampant. I will be happy to meet with you personally and see how you solve my problem if NCS is not allowed to get a high school.

    I want a school that challenges him to be the best in the world, in a safe bully free environment! What option do I have except to move to PA, or to Brandywine or even Red Clay district.

    What can you do for my kid, he is one of the “all of the kids”.