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?

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!

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?

Delaware DOE Releases Final Odyssey Formal Review Report

Today, the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education released the final report for the formal review of Odyssey Charter School.  While Delaware media covered a good deal of this, there is some new information.  In addition, the Odyssey Board of Directors sent out two letters to the Odyssey Community from the Wilmington Chapter of the AHEPA organization regarding their role with the Ithaka Learning Center that has been the center of a lot of allegations of financial shenanigans at Odyssey. Continue reading

New Odyssey Financial Abuse Uncovered While Two Brave Women Give Powerful Testimony

The funny thing about facts, my friends, is that despite the attempts of the board, they cannot be interpreted.  They cannot be changed, and they cannot be maligned for they are facts.  And the facts are that this Board violated state laws, DOE rules and regulations and maybe even criminal code laws.

 

So yes, our books are pristine.  Every dollar is accounted for.  The problem is the dollars and where they went.  Where they buried those invoices under what budget lines.  Because it’s there.  And if the State Auditor would do her job we could actually find that out.

Odyssey Charter School is in trouble.  Big trouble.  On the dawn of their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for their formal review this Monday, an article by Delaware Public Media came out showing even more financial abuse going on at the Greek-themed charter school.  Meanwhile, the CSAS initial report came out along with the transcript for their public hearing and they are explosive!  The transcript reveals what has been going on with teachers at the school and what led to the eventual decision to unionize. Continue reading

Exclusive: Public Integrity Commission Slams Odyssey’s Board; Potential McGuiness Ties To AHEPA Creates Huge Conflicts of Interest

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On April 2nd, the Delaware Public Integrity Commission wrote a letter to the Odyssey Charter School Board of Directors which showcased a plethora of financial improprieties, conflicts of interest, and co-mingled interests involving their board and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA).  The Odyssey Board of Directors has nine members, five of which belong to AHEPA.  Currently, Odyssey is beginning a formal review by the Delaware Department of Education after the State Board of Education voted to place the charter school under review last week.

The letter concludes with the following: Continue reading

Odyssey Charter School Responds To Their Formal Review With Letters To Parents, Students and Teachers

After the State Board of Education put Odyssey Charter School under formal review last night, school leaders wrote a letter to the Odyssey community with a response.  In addition, I got my hands on the school’s response to Leroy Travers, the leader of the Charter School Office over at the Department of Education!

Odyssey Goes Under Formal Review For Financial & Governance Reasons

Yesterday, the Delaware State Board of Education voted in the majority to put Odyssey Charter School under formal review for six violations of Delaware state code. Continue reading

State Board of Education To Decide If Odyssey Will Get A Formal Review

While it doesn’t appear on the agenda for their meeting this Thursday, it is expected the Delaware State Board of Education will vote if Odyssey Charter School will get a formal review.  This gained a lot more traction based on an email that went out from school leadership to interested parties last Thursday. Continue reading

Herb Sheldon Out At DAPSS Until Further Notice

As of Thursday, August 30th, Director of Operations Herb Sheldon has been placed on leave until further notice at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  The notice to staff did not indicate whether it is a paid or an unpaid leave. Continue reading

The Ghost Students Of Delaware Academy Public Safety & Security

I always wondered why the Delaware Department of Education went into Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security last December to do an emergency student count.  It turns out the DOE found out they were fooled and were not happy about it.  You see, DAPSS didn’t lose a lot of students.  They were counting ones they never had. Continue reading

A Christina Administrator Is The New Board President Of DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security

The Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Board of Directors chose their new board President last evening.  This board member was not on their board before last evening and he serves on another charter school board. Continue reading

Margie Lopez-Waite New Head Of School At DAPSS But Is Colonial Backing Out? Conflicts Of Interest All Over The Place!

After waiting an extra ten days to put up the audio of their June board meeting, the future of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is once again in doubt.  Immediately into their board meeting, Margie Lopez-Waite resigned as President of their board and was than voted into the new Head of School position. Continue reading

Will The State Auditor, Treasurer, Div. of Accounting, Delaware DOE or Attorney General Act On Petty Cash Abuse? And What Happens To DAPSS?

A few days ago I put an article up about petty cash abuse in our districts and charter schools.  No state agency has yet to give an official response even though they are all well aware of the article at this point.  I’m fairly sure if there were an investigation that came out of this the last person they would tell is me.

The interesting snafu in all this is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  They are already on probation from their formal review.  While not using a petty cash for fun time at the school is not a condition of their probation, the fact that money was used for fun time and who knows what else is a concern.  I’ve heard lots of tales about how that money was used.  An auditor would have a field day with this.

Like I said, I’m not too concerned with the folks who did it once or twice.  Those can be explained.  In fact, one school district made it a point to contact me.  It is the chronic offenders I take issue with.  Most especially the two that got a letter from Tom Wagner less than two years ago saying “Don’t do it”.  No one should be doing it to begin with but when you get a letter like that and essentially flip the bird and do the same thing all over again, I have ZERO respect for you.  Sounds like Sam Paoli has more on his plate than just CSW teachers joining the union!

I was really hoping Margie Lopez Waite and the board at DAPSS would act on this immediately.  But no, when I go to the DAPSS website I see the SAME person on there who was behind the school’s petty cash splurging.  On the taxpayer’s dime.  I don’t mind paying taxes so kids can get an education.  But I take a very serious affront to school leaders who want to break the rules and treat state money like it is their own piggy bank to play with.  Yes, I’m talking about you Herb Sheldon.  Margie acted lightning fast last Winter in getting someone off the school website.  But I guess playing with school funding is an okay.  Gotcha!  I understand now!

Will anyone in the state actually do more on this issue than send more letters saying “Don’t do this”?  When does REAL accountability start happening?

 

What Is Margie Lopez Waite Doing Now? And Is A 3rd Charter In The Mix With Her Plans For DAPSS & ASPIRA?

Will a Wilmington charter school become embroiled in the ongoing saga of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Las Americas ASPIRA Academy?  Many are saying yes. Continue reading

DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security Get 200 Students To Save Themselves From Shutdown

Talk about the last minute!  If the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security did not have a student enrollment of 200 students by tomorrow, their charter would have been revoked.  They hit that number so they have met their first condition of their probation.  Under 200 students would have meant the school would not have been financially viable as a non-profit public school.  This is “unofficial” but I am hearing this from excellent sources so I don’t doubt the viability of this claim at all.

I don’t ever wish to see any school closed unless there is some unbelievable egregious stuff going on there (case in point: Delaware Met).  I sincerely hope the school can meet the rest of their probation conditions over the coming year or so.  The whole point of any school is the success of the students.  I do wonder what schools won’t have these students next year.  Are they coming from districts or other charters or a combination of the two?  That is school choice for you and at the end of the day it is a parent’s decision!

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security Has 10 Days To Put Up Or Close Up!

Ten days.  That will make all the difference for the Wilmington charter school.  If they don’t get 24 students to apply AND commit to the struggling charter school, they will have their charter revoked at the end of this school year.

It was just last month that Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security narrowly missed getting shut down by the Delaware State Board of Education.  But the conditions mounted against them could kick in charter revocation at any time if they failed to comply.  The very first condition was the school must have 200 students by May 1st.

Last night, at the State Board of Education meeting, Denise Stouffer from the Charter School Office updated the board on DAPSS’ probation.  To date, they had 176 students enrolled for next year.  They need another 24 in the next ten days or they are toast.  That includes commitment letters signed by parents.  They could still reach that number but it would be very tough.  Their enrollment number has not gone up much since the State Board rendered their decision last month.

Ten days.  For 176 students already enrolled for next year, this could be problematic for them come June 29th if the charter for DAPPS is revoked.  These students and their parents or guardians will be forced to find a new school for the 2019-2020 school year.  Do they start looking if the school doesn’t meet their numbers by May 1st or wait to see what happens over the next few months?

State Board Saves The Day For Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

The State Board of Education, with a 5-0 vote and 1 abstention, declared Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will not close.  The State Board’s vote gives DAPSS another year to prove themselves.  But there are new conditions.

The Charter School Accountability Committee recommended the school stay open for another year as long as they have a student enrollment of 200 students by May 1st, along with other conditions including utilizing their partnership with the Colonial School District.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting agreed with CSAC’s recommendation with many revisions.  She agreed with everything the CSAC recommended but wanted to know by June 29th if Colonial or Las Americas ASPIRAS would help to fill vacant staff positions and a transition plan should the school choose to make Colonial it’s .  This must be in agreement with Colonial.  If the board doesn’t meet all their conditions by June 29th, their charter will automatically be revoked.  Bunting wants more transparency with the whole process.  She also wants all teachers to be certified and the charter handed back to the Delaware DOE by mid-2019 so they can begin the transition to Colonial.  Bunting had a total of eight conditions.

State Board President Dennis Loftus requested monthly reports to the State Board.  His biggest concern was, if the school should close, that students would have enough time to transition to different schools by the new school year.  State Board member Wali Rushdan said he was satisfied with Bunting’s recommendation and this allayed many of his concerns about the staff being certified and highly qualified.  He expressed the need for a strategic plan, one of Bunting’s recommendations.  Executive Director Donna Johnson asked about the recommendation concerning Colonial and ASPIRA helping out with staffing vacancies.  Charter School Office Director Denise Stouffer clarified they would receive support by those highly qualified instructors from Colonial or ASPIRA.  Loftus wanted to make it clear that DAPSS would either transition to Colonial for charter authorization or they would cease to exist.  What happens if Colonial changes their mind?

I predicted this would be the outcome but I was happy to see Secretary Bunting add additional recommendations.

 

CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control

At the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover, the Charter School Accountability Committee recommended Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security stay open for another school year with very stringent conditions.  At that point, Colonial’s Board of Education could very well decide to take over their charter.  Queen Margie once again made it all about her.  But the discussion that reached this point was very intense.  Much more information here than you will find in the Delaware DOE press release. Continue reading