The impasse between Academy of Dover officials and DSU professor Lori Crawford has ended. The AOD Board of Directors released Crawford from her commitment to enroll her daughter at the charter school for at least one year. Her daughter has been at Capital's East Dover Elementary School since the first day of school in late August.
The Academy of Dover Board of Directors has released Lori Crawford from the one-year enrollment commitment she agreed to last spring during her quest to find a school for her third-grade daughter.
Crawford's records were also sent back to East Dover Elementary School as she requested, she said Monday, bringing an end to an ordeal that began in late August.
In sum, Crawford, a Delaware State University professor, sent her third- grade daughter to East Dover Elementary School on the first day of school Aug. 23 only to find out that her records had been transferred to Academy of Dover based on what she said was simply an inquiry of the charter school last spring.
Crawford said school staff told her she had to fill out an application in order to meet with the principal. Crawford said she filled out the application and signed on the dotted line just to speak to the principal. She had an odd feeling in her gut, but she signed the document, which included the warning that Delaware Code required parents signing the form to commit their child to the charter school for at least one year, Crawford told the Dover Post in September.
However, Academy of Dover Principal Noel Rodriguez balked at Crawford's version of events. Rodriguez said he always gave prospective parents a personal tour of the school and went "above and beyond" to inform them that signing a commitment legally bound them, by state law, to at least one year of enrollment.
"It's remarkable for Dr. Crawford, a university professor, to go around and say she got bamboozled," Rodriguez said. "Let's look at what it is. You have a parent making a commitment and not following the protocol. And the Capital School District is in violation of the law."
Crawford declined to respond.
Crawford had said she wrote a June 19 letter to the Academy of Dover Board in which she asked to be released from the one-year commitment because she only filled out an application to procure a meeting with Rodriguez. The board rejected that as not meeting the state's "good cause" provision that allowed an exemption from the one-year commitment.
But Rodriguez said the Academy of Dover Board and the Delaware Department of Education went above and beyond in advising Crawford to write another letter citing the fact that she wanted her daughter to benefit from Capital's gifted & talented program, a service not offered by Academy. She wrote that letter "at the 11th hour" and benefited from the good cause exemption, he said.
As for the Capital School District, Rodriguez maintained, out of principle, that Capital should have sent Crawford's daughter home when she showed up on the "kicker list" that showed she was already enrolled at another public school. But it did not do so in the case of Crawford despite state law that forbids dual enrollment. He said Capital had done this with other students as part of an enrollment battle it had waged with Academy of Dover during his more than four years as principal. The only exception was in the case of "undesirable" students, Rodriguez said.
Capital School District Assistant Superintendent Dr Tina Huff declined to respond to Rodriguez's assertions. She would only say that because the Academy of Dover Board released Crawford, her daughter's enrollment counted toward the Sept. 30 enrollment count for East Dover that determined its state funding for the 2012-2013 school year. (State funding comprises the majority of education funds.)
Delaware Department of Education spokeswoman Alison Kepner said that as long as the board's release occurred by Sept. 30, then Capital's East Dover would receive state funding. She declined to comment further on the Crawford case, citing the state's student confidentiality law.
If Capital got the state money, then the whole system needed to be questioned, Rodriguez said.
"If we allow the Capital School District to break the law, the law becomes moot," he said. "You need to enforce it or get rid of it."