Events at Odyssey Charter School have been bubbling for some time now but they are coming to a boil in recent weeks. When the Odyssey Board of Directors chose not to renew Headmaster Nick Manolakos’ contract, they put forth Riccardo Stoeckicht as their new “Campus Operations Officer” and Denise Parks as their Head of School. Between these two hirings, the school is looking at over $300,000.00 for these two positions alone. But the shenanigans don’t stop there.
The reasoning behind hiring Stoeckicht so fast, according to the board, was because his contract as a consultant with their school ended June 30th and they didn’t want to lose him as the only person for the job. Stoeckicht is the President and Chief Operating Officer for Innovative Schools. Prior to that, he was the President of the Community Education Building in Wilmington and spent five years as Rodel’s Chief Operating Officer. He is also on the Governing Board of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.
While Odyssey has been timely in posting their board minutes, they are pathetic. All they put in their minutes is who attends the meetings and they cut and paste their agenda. In recent months, parents and teachers wonder why the board goes into executive session for three hours during board meetings when the board says no names have been considered to lead the school. When they came out of one of those executive sessions, Riccardo Stoeckicht was voted on by the Board to lead the school. Those attending the board meetings, which have increased greatly in the past few months, are distressed over a severe lack of transparency.
In the past week, their former Board President, Dimitri Dandalos, resigned from the Board and might be hired as another administrator with the school. Parents and teachers are not pleased with how this went down, and once again, a severe lack of transparency. It seems like the Board is hiring folks without any type of open vetting process. When teachers and parents complained about this, they were met with resistance. Their board did agree to begin a Succession Committee to address their concerns, which are open and public meetings, but they put the agenda for them up the day before the meetings and scheduled them in the middle of the workday. Stating the reason for not following the seven-day rule for posting agendas as being “not in the best interests of the school” while having the committee meetings at a very inconvenient time for working parents to attend is a smack in the face.
Teachers and parents are concerned with yet another six-figure salary going to another administrator without any consideration going out to other candidates or even the need for this new position.
The Board has cited Stoeckicht as their main choice because of his relationships with investors. But teachers and parents wonder when the Board will consider the relationship with them over financial concerns. While the school is seeking two million in donations to construct a new gymnasium, parents and teachers feel as though the education of children and fair treatment of staff should be just as important in hiring a new Headmaster. They are demanding transparency and accountability from the Board of Directors, as they should.
This isn’t the Odyssey Board’s first dance with issues around a lack of transparency. In 2014, during their charter renewal, they were given specific conditions as a result of executive committees and not following public meeting laws. It seems they did not learn their lesson four years ago.
Odyssey’s next board meeting is next Wednesday, July 18th. Their agenda does discuss recommendations from this Succession Committee but it appears the Board already made their choices and this committee is just window dressing to appease the parents and teachers. What is the point of a Succession Committee if you already have the chosen successors on the letterhead of the agenda for the committee?