Delaware STEM's charter revoked
Delaware STEM Academy will not open this fall after its charter was revoked today. Students who had planned to attend the school will be able to enroll elsewhere.
Earlier this month, the Delaware Department of Education's Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) recommended the revocation of charter unless the school’s board could provide sufficient information to address the committee’s concerns about its financial viability and programming. The New Castle high school was scheduled to open this fall with grades 9 and 10 with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The school was placed on formal review in April.
While committee members praised the school’s board for its transparency, responsiveness, involvement and leadership, citing its members’ experience and commitment as among the school’s greatest strengths, they raised concerns about how the school would be able to execute its approved charter with fidelity due to low enrollment and thus reduced funding that has led leadership to make programmatic cuts.
The school’s approved application was for 250 students in Year 1 with reliance on state/local funds generated by student enrollment. At the time of its final meeting with CSAC, the school had 124 students enrolled with a budget also reliant on private fundraising and a line of credit.
Following a public comment period, including two public hearings, Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky presented his decision to the State Board of Education for its assent Thursday.
“While the public record demonstrates that the school’s leadership and founding board are committed to the school, the low number of students and low levels of state and local funding raise too many concerns about Delaware STEM’s financial stability,” Godowsky said. “My review of the documents led me to the same conclusion as that of the accountability committee - that the school has failed to meet legal standards for financial viability and fidelity to the approved charter.”
The state will assist the families of the students who planned to attend the school this fall in enrolling in other schools. The children are able to return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school.
Delaware STEM Formal Review Timeline
· April 21: Placed on formal review
· May 10: Initial CSAC meeting
· May 12: Initial CSAC report
· May 16: First public hearing
· May 27: School response to initial report
· June 2: Final CSAC meeting
· June 6: Final CSAC report
· June 7: Second public hearing
· June 10: Public comment period ended
· June 16: State Board of Education meeting and decision
About Formal Review
The purpose of the formal review process is to see if a school is violating the terms of its charter. It is an investigative tool to see if remedial measures are needed.
Formal review can be prompted by internal concerns, such as questions about finances, or external concerns, such as tips or complaints from the public. Before recommending formal review, charter office staff typically will meet informally with school leadership to present issues and give the school a chance to respond. The State Board of Education must vote to put a school on formal review, typically based on a decision from the Secretary of Education, as was the case with Delaware STEM.
Once a school is placed on formal review, the Charter School Accountability Committee convenes. The department has 60 working days to complete the process. The committee, formed by the Secretary of Education, includes voting members who are Delaware Department of Education staff and a community member as well as ex-officio members, such as representatives from the Delaware Charter School Network and the State Board of Education.