The Delaware Auditor of Accounts office released the Odyssey Charter School Agreed-Upon Procedures report today. The work was done independently by the Santora CPA Group. The full report can be seen below.
The report shows a good deal of financial expenses that could not be explained by Odyssey Charter School. The AHEPA gala, meant to raise funds for Odyssey, netted over $72,000 in cash donations. The charter school only saw over $52,000 and AHEPA kept the rest. Almost $10,000 in earmarked expenses had no justification or reason for what they were. The Delaware Department of Education asked Odyssey to explain this as part of their formal review. An AHEPA conference in July of 2018 had over $3,800 in unexplained expenses.
The report confirmed the Board President, Dmitri Dandalos, who was also the President of the local AHEPA , unilaterally decided on Chatham Bay continuing construction of the Ithaka Learning Center. This was after a feasibility study determined it was not worth it to open up the early learning center. This cost an additional $154,217. The Board voted to pay this in executive session but it was noted in the report that the resolution to pass it in open session had no explanation of what they were paying. But since Delaware charter schools do not get capital expenses and, therefore, no money from the Bond Bill, it doesn’t really matter in terms of the legality of it all. Except it should. Perhaps our legislators can fix that. Even though it isn’t technically state money, it should still be accounted for.
Some of the expenses listed in the attachment section of the report can be easily explained. One of the vendors of the school, The Schoolhouse 302, does professional development for the school. My biggest question about that is why administrators from other school districts are doing a side company. Those administrators are Joseph Jones, the Superintendent of New Castle County Vo-Tech, and T.J. Vari, a district administrator in Appoquinimink. And if they are doing this professional development during school hours, why are they getting paid for that and their duties as administrators for their respective districts at the same time? But I digress…
This report is riddled with expenses spent by Odyssey but did not agree with the amounts reported. That is a very serious issue. Last night I was viciously attacked by someone on Facebook for daring to write something bad about Odyssey. No, I don’t think the school should be shut down. I don’t have an issue with the education they provide their students. From what I have heard, it is top-notch. My issue is with the organizational end of the school. How the board operates and how they spend taxpayer money is a big issue. And it isn’t just Odyssey. It is many charter schools AND districts in Delaware. Odyssey just happens to be in the hot seat for this right now. So is Christina School District on some levels. My biggest problem is how there is no oversight over these things coming from the state. Why does it take putting a school on formal review before the truth comes out? Is there no one watching things at the granular level before it blows up? Like I said, it’s not just charter schools. It is districts too. Both need to be watched very closely. The charters get caught for it more but districts are doing shady crap too. We all know it. They know it. It’s just a matter of time.
I am glad this report got out before the State Board of Education decided on the school’s charter renewal tomorrow night. If I were the State Board, I would vote to keep Odyssey on probation until their actual renewal at the end of the school year! (special thanks to the friend who explained this could be a viable option!)