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

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Jaques Is Playing Tricks With 2% School Board Tax Bill While McGuiness and Schwartzkopf Conspire Against Charter School Audit Bill

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Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down.  But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading

New Charter School Audit Bill Would Make Kathy McGuiness Do Her Fricking Job

When the Odyssey Charter School debacle that made Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness look like she was in cahoots with her Greek friends on the Odyssey board became public, it was obvious a change needed to happen.  State Reps. Kim Williams and John Kowalko introduced a new bill today that would give the General Assembly, the Governor, the state Attorney General, or the Secretary of Education more power to force the Auditor of Accounts Office to do audits for charter schools:

This Act authorizes the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a House, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, to request, and requires the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for, an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts in certain circumstances. In addition, this Act makes clear that the Auditor of Accounts may not charge for an audit conducted or contracted for under this Act.
In addition, it would get rid of Kathy McGuiness’ ridiculous claim that she would have to charge a state agency for the cost of an audit.  This coming from the woman who cries poor for her Auditor’s office but has been giving out $100,000+ salaries like they are candy in the past few months.
These are the proposed changes to state code:

(4)a. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, may request the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if 1 of the following applies:

1. The Public Integrity Commission makes an advisory finding under § 5807(c) of Title 29 or final finding under § 5810 of Title 29 that a violation of § 5805 or § 5806 of Title 29 has occurred.

2. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly has evidence of a violation of State law or regulation or the misuse of State money.

b. The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if requested under paragraph (d)(4)a. of this section.

c. The audit the Auditor of Accounts conducts or contracts for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section must comply with generally accepted accounting principles.

d. When an audit is conducted or contracted for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section, the Auditor of Accounts shall file a written report containing the information under § 2909(b) of Title 29 with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall distribute the report to the members of the General Assembly and the Controller General and Director of the Division of Research.

The bill’s Senate Prime is Jack Walsh, along with co-sponsors including Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Longhurst, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Smith, and Viola along with Senators Delcollo, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola and Wilson.  Some of these names are very interesting, including Smith and Sokola who have long been champions for charter schools.  But perhaps they are realizing that Delaware can no longer tolerate the financial malfeasance going on at Delaware’s charters.

The next step for this bill will be the House Education Committee.  It remains to be seen if Chair of the committee, Rep. Earl Jaques, will let it be heard before June 30th.  If not, it would carry over into the second leg of the 150th General Assembly which begins in January, 2020.

On June 5th, McGuiness wrote a long letter to members of the General Assembly about why she is choosing not to have her office begin an investigative audit into Odyssey Charter School.  I don’t agree with her reasoning whatsoever and no one has ever done this before in the Auditor’s office when it comes to a charter school audit.

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

Odyssey Charter Board Gets Stern Warning From Delaware DOE As Wagons Circle Around AHEPA & Their He-Man Woman Haters Club

The ongoing saga with Odyssey Charter School continues!  As the AHEPA members of the Board continue to do whatever the heck they want, attention is being drawn to their stunts by more than just Odyssey staff and parents.  The spotlight on the school is not good as members of the General Assembly and the State Board of Education are giving complaints to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  But the DOE isn’t the only state agency looking into the many conflicts of interest from the Odyssey Board of Directors as evidenced by the below email from Charter School Office leader Leroy Travers: Continue reading

Mutiny At Odyssey As Teachers Union Votes For No Confidence In Board of Directors

The Odyssey Charter School Education Association declared a vote of no confidence in the school’s Board of Directors.  As well, they asked four members of the board to resign. Continue reading

Will Charter School of Wilmington Try To Have Delaware DOE As Their Authorizer?

After the beat down and humiliation they received from the Red Clay Board of Education last night, the Charter School of Wilmington is very angry.  They were called out as a racist school while their charter was renewed for 5 years instead of 10.  Are they going to do something about it? Continue reading

Delaware Education Roundup October Edition

There are always gems to be found when you comb through district and charter board minutes, agendas, and websites.  I did that last night and found a ton of stuff!  Instead of coming out with a dozen or more articles about it, I thought I would just combine all of it one fell swoop!  There is A LOT of material in here so dig in! Continue reading

The Plot To Destroy DSEA

I am more convinced than ever that there are people in Delaware who are hell-bent on demolishing the Delaware State Education Association.  The resignation of Mike Matthews over old blog posts was just the opening salvo.  This is an all-out war on the teachers union in Delaware.

Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail.  The envelope was hand-written and the actual letter was typed.  The bottom part of the page was cut off.  There was no return address, just a Wilmington postmark.  I do not know who sent it but it feels and smells like a campaign to go after DSEA.  This is what the letter said: Continue reading

Odyssey Charter School Becomes 2nd Delaware Charter This Year To Join DSEA

Odyssey Charter School teachers and staff voted and an overwhelming majority decided to join the Delaware State Education Association.  This is the second charter school in Delaware to do so in 2018.  Last Spring, the Charter School of Wilmington also voted to join DSEA.  In 1997, Positive Outcomes joined DSEA but opted out in 2000.  Delaware College Prep joined in 2012 but closed a few years later due to low enrollment.

With 131 for and 16 against, over 89% of the educators in the school decided a teachers union was the best option for them.  Prior to 2018, it was virtually unheard of for Delaware charters to unionize.  What turned the tide?

For Odyssey, the decision was clear- they did not like decisions the board was making and felt their voices were not being heard.  When former leader Nick Manolakos did not have his contract renewed, the school hired two to take his place.  But the tipping point was when their former Board President, who had just resigned, became a leading contender for a third highly paid administrator.

Over the summer this led to those teachers and parents questioning the board about decisions that would affect the school.  Parents saw fundraiser after fundraiser to get more money for the school but didn’t feel the money was going towards what the school promised.  But they had money for all these administrators.

Congratulations to Odyssey Charter School for joining DSEA.  With two joining this year, will more Delaware charters follow?  Even with forces joining together to muffle DSEA it has become more apparent than ever that teachers want respect and to have their voice heard.  They are the second most important part of a school after the students.  They have rights and deserve to organize and fight for what is theirs.  They deserve due process and the right to air grievances.

Will Odyssey Become The 2nd Delaware Charter School To Unionize This Year?

Parents of students at Odyssey Charter School received the following email tonight from the Head of School, Denise Parks.  If Odyssey teachers and staff do vote to unionize they would become the second Delaware charter school to do this.  In May, Charter School of Wilmington voted in the majority for joining the Delaware State Education Association.

Good evening, OCS Families–

Our new leadership team continues to work to improve communications and also to promote transparency in school developments. To reinforce these efforts, I want to make you aware that OCS has received notice from the State of Delaware, Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) that the Odyssey Charter School Education Association (“OCSEA”) has filed a petition to represent certain academic and facilities employees here at OCS. This process ultimately will lead to an election to determine whether OCSEA, as the union, will represent this group of employees in collective bargaining negotiations. I want you to know that the leadership team strongly believes that remaining union-free is the right thing for both OCS and for the staff involved. I will endeavor to keep you informed of key developments as they occur in this process. Please contact me if you have any questions. Whatever the outcome of this vote, I look forward to a productive year for our school.

Yours in education, Denise Parks Head of School

Exclusive: Odyssey Parent’s Email To Board About Unethical Board Practices & Conflicts Of Interest

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

Teachers & Parents Are NOT Happy With Odyssey’s Lack Of Transparency With New Leadership

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

Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

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!

 

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: MOT, Newark Charter, Odyssey, Providence Creek, & Sussex Academy

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.

Continue reading

Nick Manolakos’ Journey At Odyssey Comes To An End. What Is His Next Move?

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

Odyssey Charter School Is Trying To Poach Students From Districts Before September 30th Count

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?