Red Clay to bring up Wilmington Charter review again in May

Jarek Rutz Education, Headlines

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The Red Clay School District Board’s motion to review the Charter School of Wilmington did not pass last week, but is expected to return in May. Photo by Getty Images

 

The Red Clay Consolidated School District Board did not have enough votes last week to initiate a review of the Charter School of Wilmington.

While the board seemed to approve that plan with a 3-2 vote, after the meeting ended the board learned that according to state rules the vote needed to be at least 4 in favor.

A majority of all board members is needed to pass a motion, according to the state, whether they are in attendance or not. On Wednesday, board member Martin Wilson was not at the meeting.

Red Clay School Board President Cathy Thompson said on Monday that after the vote took place and the meeting ended, she was alerted about Title 14 of Delaware’s School Code, which requires the majority of the entire board to settle a vote.

“I’m not blaming anybody else whatsoever,” she said, “but I wish someone had spoken up about the code during the meeting.”

Thompson expects the issue to come up again May 11 during the board’s next regular meeting.

The Red Clay Board’s move comes after months of complaints about Wilmington Charter’s board and its administration.

One side claims the charter board is overstepping its bounds and interfering in the school’s operations and has not been following state law about meetings. The other side claims that the administration focuses only on the opinions of a select few parents.

Thompson had maintained that the Red Clay board has no authority. She had met with those complaining during the board’s public comment section and advised them hows to proceed. That included telling those upset about meetings to reach out to the attorney general’s office.

At the March meeting, board members were told that Attorney General Kathleen Jennings’ office had ruled that the Charter School of Wilmington had violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act’s open meeting rules.

While board member Adriana Bohm asked for a compliance review then, the board opted to ask Superintendent Dorrell Green to write a letter to the charter board asking how they intended to correct that.

Green’s letter gave the charter board until May 9 to answer.

Thompson said that means the Red Clay board will have the answer in time for the issue to be revisited May 11.

“I firmly believe they’ll respond – I mean, they’re a rational organization,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to review it and figure out what’s going on. Otherwise, I think we’re revoting on the same motion.”

Thompson said it is likely the board will vote May 11 to conduct an accountability review.

The Red Clay board has authority to do reviews because it is the chartering organization for the Charter School of Wilmington.

Charter Board President John Clatworthy confirmed that he was notified after the meeting that the motion did not pass. He declined to comment otherwise.

Thompson said there have been three main problems that have fueled community members to speak out against the charter board.

“One was they didn’t follow open meeting laws,” she said. “The second was they didn’t follow their own bylaws, and the third was they didn’t follow Robert’s Rules.”

Robert’s Rules are a manual to parliamentary procedure that is the country’s most commonly used rules for conducting public and other meetings.

Thompson said the Charter board and General Assembly are the ones who must make the charter president follow Robert’s Rules, if the board has adopted it. 

She also said Red Clay’s board is not responsible for holding them accountable for their bylaws.

“They’ve got to have bylaws,” she said, “but I don’t think we monitor them, nor does the Department of Education monitor their charters to see whether they’re following their bylaws.”

Whether or not the board votes in May to do a compliance review, Thompson said she worries about the relationship between the charter school and the community. 

“There’s a lot of trust that’s broken at Wilmington Charter,” she said. “I don’t know how we fix that.”

 

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