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

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 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

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