Archive for December, 2012

Teachers show the path forward after Sandy Hook

December 18, 2012 Comments off

Upon the firm insistence of California teachers, the Cerberus investment group is divesting itself from the gun maker that makes the Sandy Hook murder weapon:

U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management is selling its investment in gunmaker Freedom Group, which makes a type of rifle used in a U.S. school massacre last week, following pressure from a major investor.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) said on Monday it was reviewing its investment with Cerberus in the wake of Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut which claimed 27 lives, including 20 school children.

CalSTRS, the second largest pension fund in the United States, had invested $751.4 million with Cerberus by the end of March 2012, according to its website.


Pike Creek Charter meeting report

December 14, 2012 2 comments



5 mile radius for Pike Creek Charter (top circle) and radius for Newark Charter (lower circle)
h/t Free Map Tools

Last night I attended the meeting for the proposed Pike Creek Charter Middle School. The meeting was held in the fitness club’s gymnasium, and first of all let me say the acoustics were terrible. There was also a loud buzzing that seemed to be coming from the overhead lights, or perhaps a swarm of cicadas wintering in the rafters. So I couldn’t necessarily hear everything that was said, but I got the gist of it.

I’m terrible at estimating crowds, but there were maybe eighty to a hundred people in the small but well-equipped gym.

There is a lot of information to process here, but frankly I think it is too soon for charter critics to get out the long knives just yet. There will be time enough for that when the charter application is filed 🙂

One thing Kilroy and I have been wondering is: Who is the leadership? There were some answers last night. Yvonne Johnson, outgoing President of the Delaware PTA, started off the presentation by introducing spokesman Michael Smith. Smith spoke briefly and then introduced the “Family Board” consisting of eleven people. I didn’t catch all their names, but I can tell you these were truly people from the neighborhood and not corporate outsiders. Some of them knew my family from way back. Many of them were introduced as having advanced degrees, but I didn’t catch whether any of them were in education.

[UPDATE 12/15: The board is actually the Founding Board, not the Family Board (I TOLD you I couldn’t hear anything!) and their names and qualifications are available on the Pike Creek Charter website at ]

Some of us had been wondering about the involvement of State Representative Mike Ramone (R-Newark), who is the owner of the property. Ramone spoke next, and laid his cards on the table. He said that a group from the community had come to him about starting a charter school in Pike Creek, and the idea of using the fitness club property was proposed, and Ramone agreed.

Ramone said he plans to be the landlord for the charter school, but did not claim to be part of school leadership. He did however state that children, fitness, swimming, and education are priorities in his life, so it was a good fit. Ramone took great care to explain that he was there only in his capacity as landlord, and not as a state representative or a member of school leadership.

Ramone explained that the building is zoned commercial, and that he had other options that would have yielded up to $26/sf (or an outright sale), but he chose to retain control over the property and that a school would be the best neighbor.

Ramone said the building is available because he now has the opportunity to move the fitness business to a larger location nearby.

What Ramone did NOT say is that the abandoned Three Little Bakers club with golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, and swimming pool is walking distance away. As far as I know, the property is currently tied up in court as the developer seeks to break a deed restriction that requires it to remain open space. The developer lost the first round and is now appealing.

Next, one of the board members spoke and presented the academic plans for the school at a high level. Frankly I couldn’t hear most of it. But the school does incorporate the principles of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and the speaker described a schoolday where the students don’t sit on one place but “get up and move with the teacher.”

One interesting detail: The plans are for all teachers to be dual-certified in their own content area as well as in special education.

State Senator Dave Sokola and Rep. Joe Miro were there, as was Councilwoman Kilpatrick, and another councilperson whose name I didn’t catch. None of the other elected officials spoke.

At the close of the presentations there was no open Q&A from the audience, which was a blessing due to the acoustics. Instead the audience was invited to stay and speak with the board members. Since there were eleven of them, it was much easier that way.

I learned a few interesting things:

1. The school will use the 5-mile radius admission.
2. The top capacity was roughly estimated at 370 (or less, depending on configuration).
3. There is some confidence that a grant for renovations will be available from the Longwood Foundation and possibly other sources.

Plans are to open the school in Fall 2014, which means the charter application is due January 2, 2013 (less than a month from now). I’m expecting the application will reveal more about leadership and financing. Look for the application here:

Pike Creek Charter School meeting tonight

December 13, 2012 Comments off

Update: Click here for meeting report

I’ve been getting lots of hits from people searching for the proposed Pike Creek Charter School.

The meeting is tonight at 7pm at the Pike Creek site, 4905 Mermaid Blvd., Wilmington. For information contact Michael Smith at 290-7726 or

Mermaid Boulevard is off Skyline Drive, right where Skyline makes that sharp turn behind the Acme at the Pike Creek Shopping Center (watch for traffic!). Just keep going up the hill until you see the building on the right. It’s the former Pike Creek Fitness club, now named Delaware Swim and Fitness. Click here for a Google map.

The meeting unfortunately conflicts somewhat with the McKean Choice Open House which begins at 6pm.

Happy Twelve Cubed Day!

December 12, 2012 Comments off

Today is 12/12/12!

Enjoy it, because it’s the last time this century for a three-of-a-kind date. But if you are into the Mayan calendar thing you don’t have to worry about it anyway.

Update: Now it’s 12/12/12 12:12


December 6, 2012 1 comment

The Community Education Building (CEB) has revealed in its general FAQ that the first cohort of schools has been selected to be tenants in the building. All applicants have been notified, and disclosure is at the discretion of each school. From the FAQ:

What were the results of the 2012 school application and selection process?

We received several charter school applications. After a rigorous interview process, CEE-Trust, our independent national review panel, made final recommendations to the CEB Board, which accepted them as made. All applicants have been informed of the outcome of the selection process. Given the impact that the CEB’s decision to delay opening will have on schools, individual applicants will communicate their selection outcome and future expansion/opening plans.

Remember the 2012 applications were apparently for existing charters only.

So, WHOIZZIT? Is it your charter? The game’s afoot.


In other updates to the FAQ:

Student occupancy has been delayed until Fall 2014.
The number of student seats has been bumped up again, to 2400.
Schools that were not selected may apply again with the second cohort by Aug. 1 2013.
There are 20,000 square feet devoted to wraparound support services.

And in an interesting FAQ item:

Is there a possibility that the opening be delayed beyond 2014?

Only a major issue (i.e. the lack of financing) could further postpone the initiative.

Is this a hint at obtaining capital funding via changes to the charter law?


Updated: CEB updates timeline

December 5, 2012 2 comments

The Community Education Building has quietly released applications for the second cohort of schools to be accepted as tenants. The new deadline is August 1, 2013.

Applications for the first cohort of schools were due August 31 2012. It is not clear if any applications were received or approved. It is also not clear if schools that submitted applications in 2012 must reapply, or if their slots have been reserved. CEB has not responded to requests for clarification.

Update 12/6/12: Riccardo Stoeckicht of CEB has responded in a comment below, pointing out that most of the questions above have been answered in a CEB FAQ. I’m not sure when the FAQ was updated, but I’ll assume it was there and I missed it at the time I wrote this post. The updated FAQ says that some schools applied, some were selected, and all applicants have been notified and disclosure is up to them. I’ll be covering the new info in another post.

The application timeline is:

Action steps and dates associated with the application process are:

Application instructions and data template (PUBLISHED: June 15, 2013)
Submit written application and data template (DEADLINE: August 1, 2013)
By invitation, participate in a final interview (BY: August 15, 2013)
School selection notification (BY: September 15, 2013)

The new school opening timeline is:

Milestone dates:

October 2012 – First cohort of tenants selected
February 2013 – Bank of America transfers title of the building to the CEB
Spring 2013 – Facility build-out begins
Spring/Summer 2013 – Selection process for second cohort of tenant schools
June 15, 2014 – School Certificates of Occupancy issued
July 1, 2014 – Schools access facilities
Fall 2014 – Schools open


Fitness-based charter proposed for Pike Creek

December 1, 2012 4 comments

Update: Click here for meeting report

According to the Hockessin Community News print edition today, a new fitness-based charter school is proposed for the site of the former Pike Creek Fitness (now Delaware Swim and Fitness). [Updated with link to online article].

Last time I checked the fitness business is owned by Representative Mike Ramone (R-Newark). The graphic printed in the article (apparently the school logo) is credited to outgoing Delaware PTA President Yvonne Johnson.

A community meeting about the proposed school is planned for Tuesday Thursday, December 13 at 7pm at the Pike Creek site, 4905 Mermaid Blvd., Wilmington. For information contact Michael Smith at 290-7726 or

From the article:

The mission of Pike Creek Charter Middle School is to promote pre-adolescent student achievement through rigorous academic instruction while incorporating wellness and fitness strategies… The foundation of the school’s mission and vision has been derived from Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle for children.

An online petition supporting the school provides some more information:

Pike Creek is one of several areas located in the Red Clay School District, which consists of (soon to be) 14 elementary schools that feed into 7 middle schools. As you may already be aware, these elementary and middle schools are becoming quickly overpopulated. It is evident that the Pike Creek community would benefit from another middle school option, which could happen with your help.

Pike Creek Charter School is a potential middle school that would serve students in grades 6-8 in the Pike Creek and other surrounding areas. Pike Creek Charter School will not only give students another middle school option but we will be the only middle school in the state with a health and wellness focus. Our goal is to open Pike Creek Charter School in September 2014.

Quick Facts-

Our school will offer:

Dual-certified teachers that specialize in Kinesthetic Learning
Strong emphasis on building healthy and active lifestyles
Rigorous academics through research proven curriculum and instruction
One hour of physical activity a day which will include unique classes such as Yoga, Zumba, strength and conditioning
Advanced health, wellness and science classes
Twice yearly projects that encompass all classes
Nutrition classes and healthy food options
Community service mandated
On site pool

Community support is especially important to us and also a significant part of the charter application process.

As we approach the submission of our charter to the Delaware Department of Education, we need supporters like you to sign in support of our potential new school. Thank you in advance for your support. After signing, please forward to family, friends and neighbors via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Please visit our blog for updates on our progress and more details regarding Pike Creek Charter School.

We, the undersigned, are in favor of opening Pike Creek Charter School.

Louisiana voucher program ruled unconstitutional

December 1, 2012 1 comment

From the WSJ:

“Nowhere was it mandated that funds from [the block-grant program]…be provided for an alternative education beyond what the Louisiana education system was set up for,” he wrote. The state can legally fund vouchers, but the funding “must come from some other portion of the general budget,” Judge Kelley said.

The state’s two teachers unions and dozens of local school boards sued the state in district court this year hoping to block the program, which allows low-income students in poorly performing schools to use publicly funded vouchers for private-school tuition.

The state will appeal.

Now about those voucher schools: A post at Delaware Liberal (by Pandora of course) lays out some of the facts about Lousiana voucher schools:

Those voucher supporters who are dreaming of Tower Hill and Archmere… it’s time to wake up and take a look at the sort of schools that will accept your child.

and, quoting a Reuters article on Louisiana:

That list includes some of the most prestigious schools in the state, which offer a rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds. The top schools, however, have just a handful of slots open. The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, for instance, has said it will accept just four voucher students, all kindergartners. As elsewhere, they will be picked in a lottery. […]

Far more openings are available at smaller, less prestigious religious schools, including some that are just a few years old and others that have struggled to attract tuition-paying students.

The school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.

And then there is this:

WATSON — Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools …

‘I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,’ Hodges said.

Hodges mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’

HB976, now signed into law as Act 2, proposed, among other things, a voucher program allowing state educational funds to be used to send students to schools run by religious groups …

‘Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,’ Hodges said. ‘We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.'”

Not to mention the Louisiana Superintendant caught trying to spin the state’s lack of vetting for voucher schools:

In the email exchange, [Superintendant] White proposes creating a news story about the “due diligence” process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a News-Star article that revealed the state Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.