Exclusive: Odyssey Parent’s Email To Board About Unethical Board Practices & Conflicts Of Interest

No sooner do I post an article about Odyssey than an email comes in from an Odyssey parent who is fed up with their Board!  While this email has been circulating among Odyssey parents on social media today, this is the first time it has been open to the public like this.  The parent gave me full permission to post this and considers it a public document!

Date: Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 12:12 PM
Subject: Odyssey Board Practices and the Creation of New Administrative Positions
To: “Josiah R. Wolcott” <jwolcott@connollygallagher.com>, George Hantzandreou <george.hantzandreou@gmail.com>, Laura Thomson <llpandest@yahoo.com>, Kirifides Mike <mkirifides@gmail.com>, Michael Klezaras <klezaras@gmail.com>, Elias Rigas <eliasjrigas@gmail.com>, abbycmyers@yahoo.com, tami.soltow@odyssey.k12.de.us, gdmoutsatsos@gmail.com
Cc: Carwell John <john.carwell@doe.k12.de.us>

Good morning OCS Board members,

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable summer.  I write this morning to express my ongoing concerns about the seemingly rushed, seemingly secretive, and seemingly predetermined decision to create yet another administrative job and give that position (without a competitive selection process) to the former Board president.

As an initial matter, giving a job to a person who stepped down as Board president eleven days ago is very questionable from an optics perspective.  I know that most of you devote many hours to the School and want the best for it.  However, taking a former Board member and awarding him a new (likely highly paid) position with no competition does not convey the right image.  In fact, it suggests that people are in this for the wrong reasons (ie: personal financial benefit).  In our society, optics often matter more than reality.  And this is not a good look.

Second, I have previously questioned the need for rushed and secretive selection processes.  I question it again at this juncture.  Just like the hiring of Riccardo, I see no need whatsoever to make these decisions in a hurried manner.    As the former OCS PTO President, I can tell you that people work very hard to scrape together a few bucks here and a few bucks there so that we can enhance the educational experience for our kids.  Teachers are also exceptionally generous with their own money and provide needed supplies for our children.  The creation of six-figure administrative jobs should not be rushed or taken lightly.  We are talking about real money here.  Real money that could be going to kids or going into classrooms or giving teachers a nominal raise or getting the capital building project on track.  I know that some Board members have bemoaned the lack of parental contributions, but that is a tall ask when this Board is, at least from an appearance perspective, handing out administrative pay like Halloween candy.  For this upcoming school year, we will have two administrators paid nearly as much as the superintendents of some of the state’s largest school districts.  See  https://www. delawareonline.com/story/news/ education/2018/06/29/how-much- delaware-superintendents-paid- per-student/742794002/ .  Shouldn’t we see what Riccardo and Denise can accomplish at $300,000 in salary (plus benefits) before we even think about adding another level of administration?

Lastly, the meetings regarding these important decisions are not so urgent that they warrant an exception to 29 Del. Code 100004(e)(2) and it’s seven day posting requirements for public meetings.  The hurried and secretive nature surrounding the hiring on Riccardo was concerning.  The fact that it is happening again a month later is even more concerning.  As parents and teachers have been trying to express throughout the Spring, OCS is a community.  You should want teacher input.  You should want parent input.  The involvement and engagement of these cohorts is what makes OCS great.  Their should have been communication and input sought on the last structural management change and it should be sought again.  Whether it’s intentional or not, the vibe conveyed by this Board is that parents and teachers are an obstacle that the Board must overcome to achieve it’s objectives.  This does not make for a healthy school culture.

I respectfully request that this Board take a few steps back on this latest initiative.  Pump the brakes a bit more.  Solicit some additional involvement and perspective from our community.  Holding meetings that aren’t scheduled for 3:00 PM on week days or posted with little to no advanced notice.  There is absolutely nothing that is being proposed right now that cannot wait for serious deliberation and input from the OCS community.

Thanks,

Ryan

Amen Ryan!  These are the kind of parents who can and do make a difference!  We need more of them!  While any school board is essentially in charge of a charter school or district, they should not operate in a silo.  Parental and teacher involvement is essential.  I am very curious what the Delaware Department of Education is doing about this.  Is there going to be more coming out about all this?  My 8-ball says yes!

People operate under this assumption I hate charter schools.  I don’t.  But I do hate backdoor shenanigans like this!  I hate it in school districts and I hate it in state government as well.  When it comes to education and your child’s school, it really shouldn’t matter what side of the political aisle you sit on.  All parents should stand up when they see something they don’t like.  And when you feel your voice isn’t being heard you should make it public.  If they won’t listen, you better be sure the rest of Delaware will!  Which includes legislators, the DOE, parents, teachers, and those who will begin watching everything they do!

Any school that has to rely on parent donations to fund their school has some serious financial issues.  If I were a parent at this school, even if I had the means, I would not give them one cent until they got their act together.  But the fact they are begging parents for money is concerning to me.  If they are budgeting and projecting budgets based on these donations that is a major red flag.

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4 thoughts on “Exclusive: Odyssey Parent’s Email To Board About Unethical Board Practices & Conflicts Of Interest

  1. Paul Novel I clicked and read the full article and Dr Manolakos should feel pretty good It took three idiots and over $400,000 to replace him. I find it interesting that the president of the board was instrumental in not renewing Dr Manolakos contract and then wanted to step into his job. Very questionable behavior to say the least!

    PS my grand kids go Oddysse and this is the tip of the iceberg!

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  2. I applaud Ryan for a well-thought-out email expressing genuine concerns. As a teacher at Odyssey my number one concern is the students. I believe the drama surrounding choices made in recent months creates an unstable, unpredictable atmosphere: the exact opposite of the type of environment needed for teachers to teach, kids to learn, and parents to parent. I am hopeful that the board will take heed of the feedback given and will take steps that will restore the faith of the community that is Odyssey Charter School. That said, I also believe it is incredibly important that our actions NOT mirror the angry and unproductive “MO” that currently seems to be how our country deals with issues; we need to NOT take an “us vs. them” stance, which essentially shuts down all opportunity for communication and understanding. We need to truly listen to one another, with the goal being to find some common ground-even while remaining true to our own beliefs.
    Again, as a teacher my priority is the students – however “right” I may feel my opinion/stance is, I (and we) have an opportunity to show our kids that it is possible to have opposing views and still come together to move toward a common goal.

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  3. Seen the dual leader model play out at gateway. Ask cRwell how that worked out? Hint: after the unceremonious departure of the exec dir. the board voted to return to the one running the ship w all admin reporting to HoS. Bye they must really hate that guy. During the audio of a meeting after he left, they bust him left and right. Didn’t name him but damn did they air their dirty laundry. Transparency prevails again!

    Like

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