Delaware committee recommends state close new charter school

    A Delaware committee recommended Tuesday that the state shutter a recently opened charter school due to ongoing school climate and leadership issues.

    Delaware’s Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) says the Delaware MET charter school should close at the end of the marking period, in late January. This just months after the Wilmington high school opened its doors.

    CSAC’s recommendation now goes to Steven Godowsky, the state’s Secretary of Education. Godowsky can either uphold the comittee’s recommendation or reverse it. His decision will then need to be upheld by a majority vote of the State Board of Education before it is finalized.

    If the school shuts down, it will be the first Delaware charter to have its charter revoked during its first year. The school’s 210 students will be eligible to return to their home, feeder-pattern schools. They may also choice into another charter school if the charter opts to take them.

    Almost immediately after it launched in August, Delaware MET encountered a wave of problems including fights among students, leadership turnover caused by the school principal taking maternity leave, and electrical malfunctions. Meanwhile, enrollment plummeted–from 261 in August to 215 in mid-October–threatening the school’s financial viability.

    During Tuesday’s meeting, CSAC members questioned Delaware Met leaders about school climate as well as its ability to deliver a high-school-quality curriculum. The commitee noted that the school wasn’t delivering required services for all 59 of its special education students.

    School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

    That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

     

    “It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

    Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

    The school closed temporarily in late September and held an emergency board meeting to determine if it should hand in its charter or continue on. The board voted to keep the school’s doors open, but soon after the state placed Delaware Met under formal review.

    That 60-day investigation culminated Tuesday with CSAC’s unanimous recommendation that Delaware Met close at the end of the current marking period. The state will hold a public hearing on December 7 at 5pm at the Carvel Office Building in Wilmington where community members can offer comment. The official comment period ends on December 11.

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