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! Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February. The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws. The school does have discretion. It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.
The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child. I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out. So this would be the first to my recollection. The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out. They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold. Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year. I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay. It isn’t.
What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law. That states schools must administer the state assessment to students. It says nothing about the student actually taking the test. A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test. That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it. And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.
The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law. Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate. But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment. Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either. It doesn’t even address opt out. In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out. But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it. And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.
Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee. It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th. I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.
Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent. Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it. I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it. That is my promise to you! And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!
These five charter schools are very distinctive in one area: they all have low populations of special education students compared to their surrounding districts. But those aren’t the only comparisons among them. Two of them have school leaders that received salary bumps over $50,000 and then resigned or are set to retire. Pension law in Delaware sets your pension based on your three highest years of salary. Intentional? You be the judge.
These five charters range from near the top of Delaware in New Castle County all the way to the heart of Sussex County with one right near the middle in Kent. All of these charters have significant student enrollment and have taken many students from their surrounding school districts. They are also in very populous, and in some cases, fast growing areas of the state.
Dr. Nick Manolakos, the long-time Headmaster of Odyssey Charter School is no longer serving in that capacity. What he does next may not be what many folks expected to happen. Continue reading
The Greek-themed Delaware charter school, Odyssey, sent out a letter to parents in their area advising them they are still accepting students. As most involved in Delaware education know, schools get their funding based on the September 30th student count. Odyssey is trying to beef up those numbers to get more money.
This is a bad idea in very bad taste. The window for school choice in Delaware closes in mid-January. As in eight months ago. While charters are certainly free to accept students after those dates if they have room, actively
soliciting students after the school year has already started is lousy judgment. It is poaching, pure and simple. It is money driven, not student driven. But what many forget is that some charters tend to kick out high-risk students after September 30th. And guess what? Some keep the funding they received.
On DSEA President Mike Matthews Facebook page, he brought this up yesterday. While he didn’t name the school, State Rep. Kim Williams said she is aware of it and did notify the Delaware Dept. of Education. Will the charter-friendly DOE actually address the situation or just play along to go along?
As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with actual charter schools and the reason for their existence. But I do take issue with situations like this, when profit and money result in grown-ups making poor decisions. There are good charters out there but unfortunately when certain charters keep coming up in events like this it is hard to not view the charter problem as a whole. Whether it is discrimination, poor special education, cherry-picking students, or using lobbying power to get more money at the expense of districts, the Delaware tends to side with the charters. Even worse, they tend to turn a blind eye to recurring issues such as the ongoing financial cesspool that is Providence Creek Academy, the enrollment preferences at Charter School of Wilmington, or the discrimination factory we call Newark Charter School. Odyssey should not be attempting to get students from districts this far into the school year.
Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting put the hammer down on Odyssey or will she allow this poaching journey to continue? And what is your take on this bad education practice?
Yes, you heard it right. The Olympics are coming to Delaware. Or, to be more specific, to Barley Mill Plaza! Odyssey Charter School, in celebration of their 10th Anniversary, is bringing the Olympic Torch to Delaware. I just have one question though… If this is to benefit Odyssey Charter School, why are folks asked to make checks out to the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and not directly to Odyssey Charter School? Does that mean the schools get all the money from these sponsorships for their 5k Run/Walk on September 24th? Awesome! But when I went to the website included in the press release (seen below) to register, it doesn’t give an online option to register. You can only mail checks to the AHEPA Wilmington Chapter. Wow! I can’t wait to see how much revenue they raise for the school!
The Board of Directors at Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington, DE clearly does not benefit from having their members publicly elected. Especially if you are a woman. Like something taken out of the late 19th Century, Odyssey seems to be very comfortable with discussing the downplaying of females on their board. There are nine members on Odyssey’s board but five are made of representation from the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. Yes, they have the word Progressive in their title. But you wouldn’t know it based on the below conversation at their May 2016 board meeting. I really can’t wait to hear charter board meetings when the audio recording law takes effect at the start of this school year!
But the kicker is that this board can never be dominated by women. Why? Because of “The Brotherhood”…
How can you call yourself progressive but limit the role of women in a governing body? Has this board forgotten about civil rights and equality? Did they know very important rules passed in this country regarding women’s rights? It isn’t just women that are reduced on this board. We see a very clear disliking of their Parent Teacher Organization as well. Guess how many women joined their board the next month? A big fat zero! I’m not sure what their male: female ratio is on their board now. I know they had 3 out of 9 women on the board prior to this vote. I can’t wait to hear Odyssey’s board meetings. I’m assuming they don’t pay their bills with Susan B. Anthony coins…
Odyssey Charter School looks to have their hands tied by their current bondholder. If they do not score well on their next financial performance framework, the bondholder will step in to intervene at the school. The school submitted a minor modification request to increase their numbers by a shade below 15%. Normally, that type of request doesn’t require a full-blown Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) hearing, but it is at the Secretary of Education’s discretion. Godowsky wanted that, and here we are. Who did the school call to help them out with their struggling money issues? Below is the initial report from CSAC.
At 9am this morning, the Delaware State Board of Education will have their first meeting of 2016. Normally these meetings are at 1pm, but since Governor Markell has to give his big speech across the street at 2pm, they are having it earlier. I thought they would make it a light schedule for this meeting because of the time change and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vote, but I was very wrong. There is a lot going on at this meeting. So being the good little blogger I am, I thought I would just go ahead and put up everything going on! To get to the potentially illegal thing, you have to go all the way to the bottom… Continue reading
Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School. Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article. I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy. Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them. And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.” Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow. While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?
Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article? If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.
Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago. But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information. I’m just a blogger! Should Odyssey get more money from the state? Hell no! Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State. Enough. They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.
Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.
Damn straight! Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more? After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts? Sorry, you missed the boat. Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation? They are always giving away money to charters. Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:
“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”
Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:
The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.
So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds? I don’t see the state rushing to help them. And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray! I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:
“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”
The timing on this is impeccable. The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities. This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer. Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.
During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.
If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny. Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.
Odyssey Charter was supposed to have an Open House for their 9th grade choice enrollment a couple weekends ago. It was abruptly postponed. Apparently the school is not quite ready to expand into the high school arena. Sources tell me they are having some bond issues to finance the new building. Nothing major, but a letter is supposed to be going out to parents according to a dad I spoke with. They do have a tentative open house scheduled for next year’s 9th graders in December. I’m sure it is something that will be worked out, they just need some additional time to get everything sorted out. The deadline for choice enrollment is January 13th, 2016. If they are unable to get it all fixed by then, they may have to delay their high school for another year.
Last, but not least (well, it is in terms of the odds of them getting a penny from the Charter School Performance Fund), is Odyssey Charter School. They don’t qualify for this because they were on probation during this fiscal year. But that doesn’t stop them from applying anyway! So let’s see what they wanted to get with this phantom money:
And we can’t forget the phantom budget!
So let me get this straight, they have a $500,000 shortfall in their capital budget for this building, they are already overbudget by $700,000 in their regular expenses (see last week’s Odyssey article), and whoever wrote this application doesn’t seem to be aware DCAS is no longer the state standardized assessment. One word: INTERVENTION!
It looks like Odyssey Charter School is having some pretty major financial problems in Delaware. Following many other charters in the past couple years, Odyssey somehow managed to spend $700,000 over their budget this year.
Some highlights from the below board meeting minutes from 5/13/15:
-They spelled “Public” wrong…
-This school continues to run their board meetings like a corporate board meeting and very little is discussed about actual academics at the school, in fact the word “student” is never even mentioned…
-Jennifer Nagourney from the Delaware DOE Charter School Office attended the meeting and reminded the board to make sure they are following FOIA regulations, she also asked the board to give her good news about the school so she can report it to the State Board of Education…
-The board told the administration they need to look at cutting all expenses…
What was the deal with Headmaster Nick Manolakos unbudgeted salary change? It was rumored he was looking to leave last winter and that he applied for the Providence Creek Academy Principal position.
Could Odyssey be one of the four unmentioned Delaware charter schools being investigated at the State Auditor office?
My mole in the Delaware charter school community has informed me Odyssey Charter School Headmaster Dr. Nick Manolakos has applied for the position of Head of School at Providence Creek Academy in Clayton, DE. This would be an interesting move for Manolakos. Does this mean all Providence Creek kids will be required to learn Greek? From the parents I know at this school, they will be less than thrilled at that prospect!
From the Odyssey Charter School PTO Facebook page, there is now a Move On petition to renew Manolakos’ contract at Odyssey. So I went to check the link, and sure enough, there it is: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/renew-dr-manolakos-ocs?source=c.em.mt&r_by=12008808