State Board of Education Unanimously Votes To Put Odyssey Charter School On Probation

In a unanimous vote, the Delaware State Board of Education placed Odyssey Charter School on probation until June 30th, 2020.  The main takeaway of their probation conditions is removing AHEPA control of their Board of Directors.  This includes all organizations associated with AHEPA as outlined in the below Delaware Department of Education press release based on Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting’s recommendations.

State Board of Education Vice-President Dr. Audrey Noble gave an impassioned speech prior to the vote urging the entire Odyssey Community, including AHEPA, to come together and become unified for the benefit of the school.  She also said she read every single public comment and urged those who supported AHEPAn control of the board to realize their voice was heard but wants the community to come together whether AHEPA has control or not.

Head of School Denise Parks and Board President Josiah Wolcott gave public comment after the vote expressing their thoughts on what a fantastic school Odyssey is.  Wolcott said their board will put together a committee to review the probation clauses.  But the public comment by board member Tami Soltow expressed immense gratitude to the State Board for their decision.  She thanked the board for holding the board accountable and said the students of Odyssey are the most important.

Secretary of Education Susan Bunting today placed Odyssey Charter School on probation until June 30, 2020, allowing the school to remain open only if the school’s board makes changes and recovers funds spent inappropriately, among other changes.

Last month the Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) recommended placing Odyssey Charter School on probation, requiring conditions be met for the school to retain its charter. Bunting reviewed the committee’s reports, the school’s responses, transcripts of two public hearings and the submitted public comments before making her decision. The State Board of Education assented to her decision in a unanimous vote.

The school has until December to make substantial progress on the conditions, a timeline that is in line with the school’s charter renewal application that begins this fall. Conditions may be included as part of a charter renewal.

Odyssey Charter School was placed on formal review this spring due to governance issues. Tonight, Bunting placed the school’s charter on probation with the following conditions:

-Odyssey’s board revise its bylaws such that

o The majority of members are not members of the AHEPA Family organizations.

o A nominating committee consisting of only the non-AHEPA Family board members nominates potential future non-AHEPA Family board members for the non-AHEPA Family board member vacancies and appoints them through a fair and transparent nomination/selection process.

o AHEPA Family may select its members in its own process that may or may not be open to the public and may or may not include individuals who are not members of AHEPA Family organizations, but AHEPA Family members must be appointed by the AHEPA Family in a manner that provides gender balance among AHEPA Family members.

o Odyssey board officer positions will be annually nominated from the floor; any Odyssey board member will be eligible to be an officer, and each board member has the equal right to nominate and vote for officers unless recused due to conflict of interest.

o A process will be established to nominate and elect from the board each year a vice-president/president-elect who serves one year and serves automatically as president the next.

o The office of president will annually rotate between AHEPA Family and non-AHEPA Family.

o Committee members and committee chairs will be selected and approved by the board in a fair and transparent process, and members/chairs will be reconfirmed at least annually by the board.

o Any authority previously granted under current Article V (Contracts, Checks, Deposits and Funds) Section 1 (Contracts) will be revoked/nullified, and the reconstituted board may grant new authorization if needed.

o The procedure to amend the bylaws will contain a provision to introduce the amendment and vote on the amendment in two separate meetings of the board on different days at least 14 calendar days apart.

o Proposed amendments will be publicized among the Odyssey board, staff and families in writing at least seven days prior to introduction or voting.

o Out-of-state travel funded fully or partially using Odyssey funds, whether directly paid by Odyssey or reimbursed with funds under Odyssey control, will be approved by the board prior to travel.

o As a result of the conflict of interest provisions, AHEPA Family members will be explicitly required to recuse themselves from matters directly impacting AHEPA Family organizations.

-Odyssey Charter School shall recover the following sums spent in a manner inconsistent with the charter:

o $1,597.59 for the AHEPA Conference in Atlantic City, NJ paid out of Odyssey funds

o $91,487.69 used to establish and operate the Ithaka corporation from Odyssey funds

-Odyssey will undergo an investigatory audit with scope of work approved by the Delaware Department of Education and the Auditor of Accounts Office at Odyssey’s expense with any findings to be repaid as recommended by the Auditor of Accounts. The firm must be independent of the auditing firm that does the annual audit of the school and the audit must be complete by January 1, 2020.

-Odyssey will develop a plan for how to improve communication and trust between the board and the Odyssey community, including staff and families.

– Odyssey will develop a plan to strengthen the capacity of its Citizens’ Budget Oversight Committee and increase its access to information.

-Odyssey board representatives and DOE representatives will meet at least once a month to discuss
and evaluate progress toward meeting these conditions with jointly written reports sent to the Secretary and State Board.

Odyssey Charter School is a 1,800-student school that serves students in elementary through high school. It is located on Lancaster Pike in Wilmington.

Find more information, including all related documents, on Odyssey’s formal review here.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006
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Poll: What Will Happen With Odyssey Charter School Tonight?

Kim Williams Calls Out Earl Jaques For The Consummate Liar He Is

In an article on Delaware Public Media concerning the status of the charter school audit bills, State Rep. Earl Jaques spun a web of lies about State Rep. Kim Williams, the sponsor of the bill.  He gave a quote to reporter Sarah Mueller stating Rep. Williams never approached him about the bill.  But Williams didn’t take it lying down.  Nor should she. Continue reading

Delaware “Needs Assistance” For Special Education But Most Districts “Need Intervention” According to US DOE

The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education in public schools.  Their system of rating states and, by default, schools is problematic on its best day.  Far too much emphasis is placed on the state assessment.  In Delaware, that test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for most students with disabilities.  We all know it is a horrible test but no one seems to want to change it anytime soon.  This is for the Part B determinations.  Part C is for children with disabilities aged 3-5 while Part B is for students in elementary up through 12th grade.

The letters to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting can be found as follows:

Part B

Part C

You will notice some very distinct patterns in the below local education agency determinations for Delaware.  No traditional school district met requirements.  Those that were labeled as “Needs Intervention” tend to be the larger districts with high pockets of low-income students, minorities, and higher populations of special education students.  All the schools that met requirements only serve high school students.  I take these things with a grain of salt but it is not a state secret that Delaware special education needs a serious overhaul!  As usual, the state education agency, the Delaware Department of Education, is not judged under the same criteria as our districts and charters.  If they were, the Delaware DOE would assuredly need intervention.

MEETS REQUIREMENTS:

Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements

Delaware Military Academy: Meets Requirements

First State Military Academy: Meets Requirements

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements

Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements

 

NEEDS ASSISTANCE:

Academia Antonia Alonso: Needs Assistance

Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance

Campus Community: Needs Assistance

EastSide Charter School: Needs Assistance

First State Montessori Academy: Needs Assistance

Great Oaks Charter School: Needs Assistance

Lake Forest: Needs Assistance

Las Americas ASPIRAS: Needs Assistance

MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance

Newark Charter School: Needs Assistance

Polytech: Needs Assistance

Positive Outcomes: Needs Assistance

Providence Creek: Needs Assistance

Seaford: Needs Assistance

Sussex Academy: Needs Assistance

Thomas Edison: Needs Assistance

 

NEEDS INTERVENTION:

Appoquinimink: Needs Intervention

Brandywine: Needs Intervention

Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention

Cape Henlopen: Needs Intervention

Capital: Needs intervention

Charter School of New Castle: Needs Intervention

Christina: Needs Intervention

Colonial:  Needs Intervention

Delaware Design Thinking Academy: Needs Intervention

Delmar: Needs Intervention

DSCYF: Needs Intervention

Early College High School: error on web page for letter

Friere Charter School: Needs Intervention

Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention

Indian River: Needs Intervention

Kuumba Academy: Needs Intervention

Laurel: Needs Intervention

Milford: Needs Intervention

Odyssey Charter School: Needs Intervention

Red Clay: Needs Intervention

Smyrna: Needs Intervention

Woodbridge: Needs Intervention

Disgusting Lunch At Brennen School For Children With Autism Has Parents Fuming

This is just foul!  The Brennen School in the Christina School District is serving kids lunch that I wouldn’t feed to my dog!  A parent sent me a picture of their child’s lunch at the school that serves children with Autism as part of the Delaware Autism Program.  I know Christina is having money woes but come on people!!!!

Brennen Hot Dog

Aside from this shriveled up hot dog, students were served a clementine along with it that day.  Sources tell me teachers are bringing in food for the kids the food is so atrocious.  Hey Christina, just because students have disabilities doesn’t mean you have to serve them sub-standard food.  I have to wonder what year this hot dog was cooked…

AHEPA Member Harasses Odyssey Whistle Blower Over Formal Review, Today Last Day For Public Comment

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At the final Public Hearing for Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, public comment was given by Jennifer Ballas indicating a prominent member of the AHEPA organization publicly harassed her at Odyssey’s last public board meeting after she spoke out against AHEPA.

After I spoke at the last public board meeting, I was attacked by AHEPA member who threatened and tried to intimidate me, and things that Mr. Manny Kanas, who used to be AHEPA Board President, said, I was a loud mouth, disrespectful, rude piece of useless flesh that is a total puppet to Dr. Nick.  He told me I was stupid.  And he wanted me to go away.  And that the cat had my tongue, even though I did not have the time to quickly respond to him.  And that scorned women are the worst.

It can be tough to be a whistle blower.  You put yourself in the direct path of those who don’t like change.  Who don’t like the truth coming out.  This Manny Kanas person who used his bully pulpit in an attempt to humiliate and intimidate a woman who is devoted to the success of children at Odyssey, is a coward.  A pathetic man who is clearly all about control and holding onto a relic of the past that is not welcome in the 21st Century.  I have nothing against the concept of AHEPA.  I don’t have any issue with any group or culture formed to promote education.  What I do take issue is what the Wilmington chapter of this organization has become.  And their treatment of women is deplorable.

Even former DSEA President Mike Matthews gave public comment at the public hearing.

And the fact that so many have gotten up here tonight and said without the AHEPA majority, the school will fail, you just told those hundreds of teachers at that school they are failing.  And I reject that on its face.  This is arrogance and hubris that has led us to the point where we are today.

Today is the final day to submit public comment for Odyssey Charter School.  All comments must be received by the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education before 4pm est today.  Public comment can be emailed to infocso@doe.k12.de.us and MUST be done today.  If you are against the practices of an outside AND private organization controlling a tax-payer paid public school, please let your voice be heard urging Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and the State Board of Education to reject outside control of a public school board.  I’ll be submitting mine!

In the meantime, all the public comments from the meeting Monday night are below.  It is very easy to see who is cheer-leading for AHEPA and who is speaking out for the truth.

The final decision regarding the formal review for Odyssey Charter School will be at the July 18th State Board of Education meeting at the Townsend Building in Dover at 5pm.  It will be a very interesting decision!

Christina Board Member Sworn In & Resigns Minutes Later

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In the oddest move I’ve ever seen in Delaware education, Katie Hegedus was sworn in as a board member of the Christina School District Board of Education last night at their monthly board meeting and resigned minutes later.

Hegedus beat incumbent John Young two months ago in the school board election.  Her platform was basically that she would resign once she is sworn in.  This would force the current board to hand-pick a replacement.  They announced at their board meeting last night they would begin this task.

This ridiculous stunt was concocted by the Friends of Christina, a small but connected group of parents in the district who basically hated the fact John Young would call out the district on, well, anything.  Whether it was right or wrong.  Their mantra of go along to get along brought forth this latest oddity in Delaware school board race history.  One for the record books, that’s for sure!  This election meant so much to their de facto leader that she is currently trying to sell her house and move out of state.

While Young is no longer on the Christina Board of Education, he has come back and relaunched his blog as Transparent Christina 2.0.  I fully expect Young, who is now no longer beholden to certain bylaws of being a board member, to come out swinging on his blog!  While this very sad attempt at silencing Young may appear to be a win in some circles, I fear all they have done is awoken an already alert dragon.  With a tagline of “Because sometimes Exceptional needs some help“, Young has written several articles of late.  Speaking for Exceptional, I welcome any help in the Delaware education blogosphere!  Unless it is some urgent sounding blog…wink wink!

The board re-elected former President Meredith Griffith to another one-year term as President while Keeley Powell was elected to Vice-President of the board.

EastSide Charter School & Charter School of New Castle Break Up Partnership

Last month, the boards of EastSide Charter School and Charter School of New Castle decided to break up the unique partnership between the two schools that had been in existence for nearly five years.

In late 2015, when Family Foundations Academy was under formal review for financial and governance reasons, the Board of Directors at EastSide Charter School stepped in and essentially took over the school.  EastSide Head of School Director, Dr. Lamont Browne, took over as leader of both schools.  The former Heads of School at FFA were charged with theft of school funds.  Sean Moore served time in federal prison for his role in the crimes.

In 2016, Browne left for a position in Denver, Colorado and Aaron Bass took over the role as the leader for Vision Academies (the name of the partnership between EastSide and FFA).

In 2017, Family Foundations Academy changed their name to Charter School of New Castle.

Bass will continue as the Head of School for EastSide Charter School while Charter School of New Castle will continue to have LaRetha Odumosu as Principal of their middle school and Rachel Valentin as Principal of their elementary school.

DelawareCAN policy intern takes on DE School Board elections, and it’s a cliched take at best. #netDE #eduDE

Transparent Christina 2.0

The article: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2019/07/05/why-did-firefly-draw-more-people-than-delaware-school-board-elections/1638930001/

Alphina Kamara takes on DE school board elections by sharing her take on voter apathy by revealing exactly how spectacularly unsuccessful DelawareCAN’s unfortunately named “Who Runs Delaware’s Schools” campaign (School boards do not run schools, they govern. Also, individual board members are functionally powerless by design) has been. In her article she trots out Rep. Baumbach’s terrible bill, that even when modified got exactly zero votes on the floor (it was such a bad bill it didn’t even get run by the Speaker). She neglected to address the bill’s design to pay board members, throwing their independence into play, and only focused on the term reduction aspect claiming, without proof, that it gives voters more choice. She then accuses Paul’s fellow legislators are apathetic (“his efforts have gotten a weak response”) public servants who are embracing the status quo.

Ah, the old status quo argument…that the same…

View original post 251 more words

As Odyssey Gets Ready For 2nd Public Hearing, AHEPA Emails Sound Like The Handmaid’s Tale…Blessed Be The Fruit!!!

As the clock ticks for a decision on Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, the final public hearing will be tonight.  Meanwhile, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), which is the primary reason the school went under formal review in the first place, is begging their membership to come out in support of AHEPAn control of the school’s Board of Directors.  So much so they are beginning to sound very desperate.  I would urge the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education to use a grain of salt when they read the public comments submitted to them.


From: AHEPA Wilmington Chapter 95 Office of the President <ahepawilm@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 11:10 PM
Subject: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
To:

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Good evening Brothers,

We need to FLOOD the DOE with emails regarding the AHEPA Family’s involvement with the Odyssey Charter School.  We MUST retain control for the school to continue to grow with the mission and vision of its pioneering creators!  Below, please find instructions on what should be done IMMEDIATELY.  In addition to yourself, share with family members and friends so that we inundate the DOE email box with supporting emails.

Click on this link:   https://delaware.gov/help/degov-contact.shtml
Enter your name, email, etc.
In the drop down for Category, enter Education
Subject: I support the AHEPA Family majority on the Odyssey Board…..or pick your own subject.  But make it stand out that you support the AHEPA Family
Enter your information in the body information
Submit

Share this with your friends and relatives.  Have your spouse do it too!  We need to impact their inbox!

And don’t forget!  We need you AND your VOICE and the Carvel State Office Building in downtown Wilmington next Monday, July 8th at 5pm.  You must sign up to speak, so please be there before 5!!!

Fraternally,
Michael Klezaras III

President


That was solicitation for the public comment.  Notice the use of the word “brothers” in the above email.  I guess “sisters” don’t get this email.  But I digress…

The following email was sent out yesterday to AHEPANs for public comment at the public hearing tonight at 5pm.


From: Michael Kirifides < mkirifides@gmail.com>
Date: July 7, 2019 at 1:44:14 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Fwd: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!

Dear Friend of AHEPA,
I would like to extend this invitation with urgency to support the local Chapter #95 of AHEPA in governing the Odyssey Charter School. There have been unsubstantiated allegations from a few individuals whose complaints have triggered the Delaware Department of Education to request that AHEPA cede its governing authority over the Odyssey Charter School. Without question, in time, the allegations will be disproved, yet the DoE has been pressuring the local AHEPA to relinquishing its governing majority to the few who are in hostile opposition to AHEPA. As a community, we are coordinating a grass roots response to the Charter School Accountability Committee during the public hearing on Monday July 8th at 5 pm being held at the Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French Street, Wilmington, DE 19801.
Thank you in advance,
Michael Kirifides

 

From a “few individuals”.  Those “few individuals” sure put the spotlight on a lot of individuals, didn’t they Mr. Kirifides!  Is that spotlight “hostile” or just making sure the school board follows the laws of the state?  Didn’t know it was hostile to point out financial fraud!  I hope this formal review puts the AHEPA brotherhood in their place!  “May the Lord be!”

***Editor’s note: If you haven’t read or watched “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the references to the religious quotes will be lost on you. For those who do, doesn’t AHEPA sound very much like Gilead?

Christina School District Changes School Start & End Times Without Board Approval Or Letting Parents Know

Ah, it must be summer in the Christina School District.  The days when district leadership make changes to how the district operates without board approval.  In the latest round of “how can we make the district look bad”, the district has now changed start and end times for the schools in the district.  Some are good and some are bad but the fact it was a unilateral decision by the Superintendent (Richard Gregg, who the board hired) is a smack in the face to the governing authority of the district (the board).

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How this district leadership can be so infantile in its arrogant way of thinking is beyond me.  I guess they don’t have to care how these changes could affect the schedules of working parents, teachers, and extracurricular activities students might do outside of school.  And I guess they still haven’t gotten the memo that 7:05 is way too early for teenagers to go to school in the morning!!!!  Tsk, tsk…