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