The Ongoing Odyssey at Odyssey

For those who’ve been following education news, there have been some concerns over the last year with Odyssey Charter School. There have been problems with their financials and governance. These problems have been so concerning that the Department of Education has issued a number of recommendations to Odyssey’s school board and the State Board of Education has them under their Formal Review process. Last year, their staff actually had a vote of no confidence in the board…a vote in which one board member, in response to the vote of no confidence, yelled “it didn’t matter!” in a public meeting  That led to the teachers and staff voting to unionize, by an overwhelming majority, with the Delaware State Education Association, ostensibly because of the issues and mistrust plaguing its school board.

Some on their board leadership have been accused of wanting to maintain a male-led supermajority of the board aligned with a Greek fraternal organization known as AHEPA. AHEPA, short for the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, allows only men to be members. The Board’s current by-laws state that a supermajority of its members must also be AHEPA members. A supermajority, which by the way, has been slapped on the wrist by the Delaware Department of Education, the Public Integrity Commission, and State Board of Education as a violation of equal protection under the law because, by default, it limits the number of women who can serve on the board. How can a local school board, a governmental body, determine its own make-up and specifically require that a supermajority of them can’t be women? Is this even legal?

Also, there have been a number of instances where male members of the Board have met separately from the whole Board. How is this possible? Women are not permitted to join AHEPA, let alone attend the AHEPA meetings in which this public school and the board members are discussed.  It is behind the closed doors of this male-only meeting where the AHEPA board members and the board president are voted in and chosen, without any input, let alone knowledge of the non-aHEPA members or women of the public school board.

Some recordings I’m about to share with you should give you major concerns. First, Odyssey recently opened up two seats on their board. The seats have remained unfilled for months. One, in particular, for over a year since the Honorable Superior Court Judge Abby Legrow read aloud her pointed resignation letter to the board detailing her concerns of wrongdoings.  The Board solicited interested applicants to come forth and consider joining. Remember, unlike local school boards, charter school board members aren’t publicly elected. They are chosen by the boards themselves and they select their own nominating committee members. 

At a board meeting on December 3, 2019, the board deliberated two candidates who had applied for one of the two open positions. One was a white man who publicly supports AHEPA. The other was a black woman. At one point during this audio recording, a man on the board refers to the black woman as a “token” and that she shouldn’t be selected just for diversity’s sake. Listen below:

This is absolutely stunning. A charter school board that has had its wrist slapped for its governance practices and one of its current members is saying a Black woman shouldn’t be appointed to the board because she’d only be a “token?” What is going on here? Is she a  “token” because she’s a woman or is she a “token” because she’s black? Regardless, the woman wasn’t chosen for the position. The white man who supports AHEPA was chosen.  

At a board meeting on January 15th, the Board had a very lengthy discussion about the use of its parking lot. Odyssey Charter shares the old Barley Mill DuPont property with another charter school  — Academia Antonio Alonso, a charter school with a majority Hispanic/Latino students. The Board was talking about parking and traffic issues with Antonio Alonso families.  It should be noted that at the December 2019 OCS board meeting, a number of Antonio Alonso faculty, parents and administrators came and spoke to the OCS Board about their continued concerns about the safety of them and their students and the lack of concern and action by the Campus Operations Officer and Transportation Manager.  

Around the 2:44:00 (two hour, 44 minute) mark of this audio, a board member says they should “put a fence” up and that he has previously discussed this fence with the OCS Campus Operations Officer and Transportation Manager.  This is the same board member who was just appointed to the board. The board president is then heard saying and “they’re gonna pay for it” a la Donald Trump’s comments about building a wall between the US and Mexico. Another board member chimes in (although it’s difficult to hear) “build a wall.”   The board members then proceeded to laugh about this for a time, after which the new board member stated that “the jokes write themselves” All of this was said “in jest”, as one of the board members preceded his comments saying. But they’re talking about a school serving a majority of Hispanic/Latino students. Even if this is all a joke, is this ok? For members of a public charter school board – or any school board! – to be making jokes of this nature?

I find all of this beyond disturbing. This is a public school board whose violations of transparency and public trust have been put on full display by the Department of Education, Public Integrity Commission, and State Board of Education. This is a public school board that has refused to conduct a true investigative audit of its finances (with the help of a state auditor who also hasn’t done her job in auditing Odyssey). While a private audit was done several months ago and the results were recently released, it did little in fully explaining thousands of misspent public dollars. As well, it should be noted that the Department of Education publicly shared their concern that the audit didn’t report on all of the concerns they, the PIC, and State Board had outlined months earlier. 

This is a public school board that seems to be happy and humored with allowing discriminatory practices in how they select members of its board. You’d think after all of these things have been laid bare in front of them over the last year, they’d act with some grace and humility. But, it appears that’s not possible here.

46 comments on “The Ongoing Odyssey at Odyssey

  1. Thanks for putting this out there. Commitments and time restraints keep me from blogging much these days!

  2. How many cases will it take before someone moves to curtail the problems with charter schools? The only valid reasons for charter schools should involve educational methods, not curriculum, as a number of them now do.

    What Delaware “charters,” other states do with magnet schools that operate under the same administrative system as the rest of the public schools. There is no reason that special rules involving school board makeup, etc., are needed to institute a specialized curriculum.

    The present situation is untenable, but the public is mostly unaware of the totality of the problem. There’s one of these annually, it seems (I haven’t looked it up), but they are treated as separate, individual incidents instead of glaring flaws that are hurting the education of thousands of kids.

  3. Jack Polidori

    It is a self-perpetuating Delaware corporation, organized under Delaware corporate formation laws, and funded with public dollars. And if they were to go out of business, who would own their buildings and other assets paid for with public tax dollars???

    • Rufus Y. Kneedog

      All nonprofits have a dissolution clause which requires them to give any remaining assets to another nonprofit or to a government entity when they dissolve.
      Charters can’t pay for buildings with public tax dollars, at least not directly. It would be more correct to say “paid for with a mortgage” since they have a large one and if they were to suddenly go out of business the lender(s) would most likely take over the buildings.

    • Jack, you should have cut a better deal with HB165 when you were the DSEA lobbyist. You let the charters grow unfettered with weak stripped out impact language.

    • The buildings and other assets were the components of the operation that were supposed to be privately funded. Therefore the privately funded components revert back to the owners.

  4. There is also the problematic recent Odyssey School audit from AoA that the DEDOE found unacceptable but has somehow faded from view.

    And from PA today –

    ‘Fronts for private management:’ Wolf takes aim at charter schools in state budget

    • Rufus Y. Kneedog

      The report was not an audit but an “Agreed Upon Procedures” engagement. Under that type of engagement, the CPA firm performed specific procedures co-designed with the client to find out specific information. As in all Agreed Upon Procedures engagements, the CPA firm does not draw conclusions – that’s up to AoA and DOE.
      Since AoA and DOE haven’t done that, we are free to draw our own conclusions. Mine is, based on the very long list of expenditures where the CPA firm asked for but did not receive supporting documentation, that Odyssey did not take this very seriously and follow-up is needed.

  5. my comment disappeared.

  6. The reason we have charter schools and are arguing over the consequences is the Leftist have controlled education for more than a half of century. Add the “Great Society” and the subsequent destruction of the inner city family and you are left with lousy schools. Giving some, if not all, families a choice (Lefties like that term- woman’s right to choose) will at least shake up the status quo. Vouchers are a part of that, but the NEA will never come onboard because teacher’s unions are not about educating children. They are for the fat cats and a direct conduit to mandatory contributions to the dems through their dues.

    • This is a trite recitation of room-temperature talking points. If you want your opinion to carry any weight, you should show either evidence to back up your claims or some semblance of original thought. Otherwise you’re just this week’s conservative troll.

      We know what you think. We just think you’re wrong, because you haven’t done anything at all to convince us you’re right.

      You are, in the vernacular, just bitching. And it’s about something you have shown no knowledge of at any level above what any rando on a barstool, or a caller to a talk radio program, would say.

      The talk-radio-conservative position on virtually any subject boils down to “you’re doing it wrong,” and it is very seldom based on anything but mental images with no foundation in reality. See, if a teacher or ex-teacher comes here and says that, he or she has some standing to do so. You, not so much

      Yes, everyone gets to have an opinion. But everyone also gets to dismiss those that show no merit.

      Consider this words to the wise.

      • DE Voter 302

        Alby can you please come back to radio? We miss having a liberal voice on air. I’m sure you can resolve whatever made them sever your contract.

        • Never had a contract. And the new owners are busy subtracting, not adding.

          My situation there was unique. Most PDs want all-conservative talk all the time, for the sake of consistency. The thinking is that a Rush listener isn’t going to want to hear a liberal if he turns on the station at the wrong time.

          That said, I much prefer being retired.

          • DE Voter 302

            Why did they let you go? Your show was great. It was a shock when they just took your show off with no announcement. There one day, gone the next.

            • They didn’t give any reason, but the fact that six months prior they told me they wanted to de-emphasize political talk and I told them if they didn’t like the show they should give me my severance and I’d be gone probably did the trick.

              It was also a little incongruous to be pointing to the future with three 60-year-old guys taking the bulk of the air time, and I was easily the most expendable.

              Once the financial consultant told me I could afford to retire, I wasn’t eager to stick around for the election anyway.

              They did it the ugly way because they brought in a management team from a big DC station who did it the corporate (read: chickenshit) way.

    • Your response is hateful and angry, based on preconceived notions and assumptions. Your politics are based on seeking conflict over resolution. That is the only reason for you to comment here.

  7. The day I consider your words wise, I will know I also have alzeimer’s. With that said, there is no denial that the African-American out of wedlock birth rate hovers at 70% and whites at 30%. The welfare system has replaced the husband and father in the family. Without functioning parents, no one can expect children and students to perform at their potential. I don’t need a “teacher or ex-teacher” to weigh in. The stats are there. Off the boat immigrants 100 years ago performed better in school (discipline in the home and participation in the education process) than modern inner city people. BTW “room temperature talking points” is non-nonsensical. A talking point has no energy or temperature. I think you mean room temperature IQ. Take another pill. In the mean time, science is making great progress on neurological issues such as yours.

    • Reading comprehension: They were words to the wise, not from.

      If the stats are there, please point them out.

      Please refer to the studies that show that “without functioning parents, no one can expect children and students to perform at their potential.” This strikes me as an opinion rather than a fact.

      Please document how “The welfare system has replaced the husband and father in the family” as it pertains to education. Then, please explain if this situation means the government has no responsibility to the children because their parents have not provided for them as you think the parents should.

      I could go on and on, but I’m trying to show you that simply spouting these beliefs — and that’s what they are, beliefs, not facts — doesn’t persuade anyone. You’re just venting, and unintelligently at that.

      BTW, how many “modern inner-city people” do you know?

      Your most troubling statement is that you “don’t need a teacher or an ex-teacher to weigh in.” This shows that your real stumbling block is an aversion to evidence in favor of your feelings. I especially notice that all the things you point to are not things the government has control of, except your apparent desire to cut off financial assistance to the poor.

      Please examine the soul you claim to have, because you are exhibiting little sign of it here.

  8. Alby, you bloviate about things you should know about, but don’t. I have personal experience with the school system and inner city people. My children were all part of the public school system and I experienced the consequences. We lived in a suburban neighborhood by choice after moving out of Wilmington. My wife was a stay at home mom by choice. We lived within our means, driving older cars, skipping vacations, not going to restaurants, not doing drugs and skipping tatoos. In other words, your attitude is condescending. Because of court ordered busing, my children, who could walk to school, were forced to wait for the inner city buses to arrive (sometimes late) and sat in a classroom waiting for the school day to start. The school was mandated to provide breakfast (I don’t understand why a parent can’t at least pour a bowl of cereal and if things are that tough, food stamps should bridge the gap) and that just caused further delays. My daughter was in a toxic environment and we ended up putting her in Catholic school the following year repeating the previous year curriculum. So, playing by the rules meant we were penalized.
    And if the government has not replaced the father in inner city families, why are there a high percentage of unwed mothers? Soul? Isn’t that a spiritual thing? I thought you were an atheist. Feelings are for the Leftists, because logic and feelings are diametrically opposed.

    • Weird ,dude! Look inside for your failures

    • Most people have personal experience with the education system. You’ve taken yours and placed blame on everyone but yourself.

      You obviously haven’t done a bit of research on this topic. Instead, you rely on your own prejudice to blame black people. I see you. If you think what I claim isn’t true, then ask yourself why you didn’t mention the struggles in high poverty, white rural areas? Poverty is the common denominator. You skipped right over that and went straight for race. Which is not only wrong, but puts your racism on full display. You skipped over school funding and how high-needs schools lose valuable programs due to non-equitable funding.

      You didn’t address the fact that the number of people marrying has declined among races. Your comments tell us far more about who you are then anything about the education system – a system you obviously know nothing about. You skipped over everything to make your main point – blaming city residing, black people for your educational failings.

      I live in the city. I was a stay-at-home mom. My children graduated from public schools. They did just fine.

      • Race was never mentioned in my post. You inferred that. Typical for a Leftist. Every one is in a compartment and every one is a victim.I can’t comment on rural areas from a personal experience, because I don’t have it. I merely commented on my and my families experience with a broken public school system in NCC. That is my research. Race has nothing to do with it. BTW, the most expensive schools per pupil tend to be in large Democrat run cities. Money isn’t the only factor. You also assume I am white. That is racist.

        • You most certainly mentioned race. Go read your comment above. It was obviously very important for you to inject race into the discussion. Like I said, I see you.

          • He meant he never said “black.” He just said “inner city.”

            These tendentious pricks listen to Fox and Rush all day and think they have what it takes to fight with liberals, not realizing that they’ve never heard an actually valid counter-argument against anything liberal in all their years of listening.

            He didn’t know what “ad hominem” means, he thought only “tears” signified emotion — as if seething resentment weren’t an emotion — and he claims the inner city is a topographical designation.

            There is no hope for these people. How do you rinse clean a washed brain?

        • John Kowalko

          Well let me now mention “race”. The most successful Charter Schools in Delaware (and note that there are many charter schools not at all successful) have a disproportionate percentage of white students and a woefully inadequate percentage of black/poor students and a minute percentage of special needs students. This is deliberately facilitated by exclusionary admissions practices and other artificial boundary access (ie. 5 mile radius preference). These impoverished and minority children are just as capable as their white counterparts to perform at a high level of achievement but they are not given equal access. Newark Charter k-12 school has a full lottery of applicants and compresses the entry area to a 5 mile radius (a large part of which lies in Maryland). Although Newark Charter is equally publicly funded as other Christina District schools its use of the 5 mile exclusion zone effectively prevents matriculating eighth grade students from the City (mostly poor and minority) from being allowed into the lottery pool. In fact the Wilmington families pay an equal share of supporting taxes for Newark Charter but their children are effectively barred from the “public” school known as Newark Charter High School. I’ve tried repeatedly to repeal the 5 mile radius exemption, which has caused a further segregation in Delaware public schools but to no avail. Check the numbers of and percentages of poor students, disabled students and minority students attending Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter and other “high” performing charter schools and then try to deny that there is a hell of a lot of latent and outright racism in these bastions of corporate education reform. Both of my children attended and graduated from Christina Public schools, Downes, McClary, Shue Medill, Bancroft and Newark High. They rode the buses back and forth into the City and enjoyed every moment of those opportunities for socially inclusive interactions. Stop that outrageous defense of the Rodel, Chamber of Commerce, DeVos, Trump and wealthy corporate reformers (who suck at the taxpayers teat) that it’s not racism to want your child to not have to share a bus or school with “THOSE PEOPLE”. IT DAMN WELL IS. Turn on Fox and Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, Ingraham and Tucker et al and maybe they’ll cough up a hairball that you can suck on like some kind of pacifier.
          Representative John Kowalko

    • What does any of that have to do with charter schools? My children also were bused from the suburbs to city schools.

      BTW, Wilmington is not large enough to have an “inner city.” Nowhere in Wilmington are you more than a few blocks away from more working- and middle-class neighborhoods.

      Logic and emotion are indeed different, but if you think you’re using logic, you really need to read up on the Dunning Kruger effect.

      I realize I am condescending. It’s a curse. All I’m trying to explain is that you have not educated yourself on this or any issue I can tell. You are just spouting unsupported opinions. And my lack of respect for your, yes, “feelings” about this is base on that.

      Why you’re doing it here, where nobody cares what you think, indicates some sort of problem in your life, as most people don’t spend their days picking fights with people they know going in will not agree with them.

      • I never said my kids were bussed. We could walk to the school. Remember? You need to work on your reading comprehension. Being condescending is not a curse- it is a disorder. There is no inner city? Really. If you look on a map (it is a rendition of the area and topography of an area, region and/or city) you will notice that there are areas at the periphery (edges for the uneducated) and center (near the middle). Hence an inner city. My opinions are not based on “feelings” (tears in my eyes). They are based on actual real life experiences and I don’t need and elitist (your words) from the tony, nearly all white area called Hockessin. Whether we agree or not is not important. You (and the other elitists) need to hear from people that deal with the destruction your policies cause to every day people.

        • cassandram

          So you’re done. You won’t stay on topic and — more importantly — you aren’t even here for a good faith discussion. And as long as you are armed with your prejudices and your FOX News bullshit, you won’t pass the good faith test.

        • Just for the record, my next-door neighbors in “tony” Hockessin are African American on one side, Asian American on the other, with a mixed white-Asian couple across the street. And I bought my first home in Hockessin for under $100K, back before it became tony.

          If people are going to make ad hominem attacks, at least get the facts straight.

    • And, just to reiterate, nothing you’ve said has the least thing to do with the topic of Odyssey Charter School, which you have never even mentioned in your rants.

    • cassandram

      You and your zombie prejudices need to get on topic now. If you want to deal in long debunked narratives and bullshit, you need to be on the FOX news chat boards. Those are your people. You have nothing to offer any participant here.

    • How would you describe your childhood?

      • That was for Buster. He’s such a Buster.

        • Manny- That is very deep. How long did it take for you to think of it?

      • My parents put their children first. Always fed, clothed and most importantly we did our homework and had chores around the house. It built the work ethic I have had my entire life. How about you?

        • You still don’t get it. Blaming the parents does nothing to help the children. Logic, sir, logic. Use some.

        • I had a father whose politics were very similar to yours. I grew up and had life experiences that taught me I didn’t know everything, that I shouldn’t assume that everyone else had what I had growing up, including people who teach the values to be successful. It sounds like you were very fortunate growing up, that you had a family that met your needs and provided strong values. Imagine if you hadn’t had those things. How would you have turned out? How does a person learn the values to be successful when their lives at home are total chaos? Should the school system ignore the extensive needs of those children? And why do you feel the need to insult everyone you disagree with? Where does that come from?

  9. cassandram

    Time to give this school a turn around plan and a deadline to get there. Dissolve it if they can’t make either.

    • Would you be willing to make the same demand of Christina School District?

      • Do you have any idea why the Christina School District is in trouble? And if, by dissolve it, you means fold it into another public district, my answer would be yes.

        Charter schools have been badly mishandled by the state, starting with the granting of charters to numerous dubious people promoting dubious reasons for charters. But you’d have to understand the original reason for promoting charters to realize how far off the path Delaware got.

  10. Yes, I have a little bit of an idea why Christina is in trouble. I attended CSD K-12 and my children spent at least some of their educational career there (K-6 for older, K-4 and 9-12 for younger).

    I would be happy to see county-wide districts, it seems to work pretty well in MD. I think, although I have no data to back the assertion, that it tends to average out the localized discrepancies between wealthier and poorer tax bases and result in a more equitable distribution of educational funding. I also think that there would be some administrative efficiencies gained.

    Also agree that there are sketchy charters, but the beauty of the charter system is that people can “vote with their feet” and choose not to continue to support these charters. Charters fail and are shut down every year.

    I think the main root of Christina’s trouble goes back to the 9-3 plan. It makes no sense at all for kids to spend and hour and a half on a bus each day or for parents to have to travel 30 miles round trip to attend school events, etc. There was a pretty big exodus at the time. This was the real root of the charter movement as suburban parents tired of paying taxes and private school tuition.

    The better answer would have been to try to improve the existing school infrastructure in Wilmington rather than abandon it, IMHO. Some sort of revenue leveling from taxes would have been much more acceptable than having kids all across the county climb onto buses every day and ride back and forth to and from Wilmington and Newark.

    • Busing was and is an imperfect solution to a problem whose foundations were laid in the post-WWII redlining that made housing patterns in northern Delaware so racially identifiable.

      I strongly supported the concept of charter schools as originally proposed: Schools that would use different methods to educate, not the current concept of schools with different curricula. Those are magnet schools, and there’s no reason for them to need the rules-loosening aspects of charters. I find it ludicrous that we have a publicly funded military school, another for training first responders, etc. — these are jobs programs, not education. This is part of the Chamber of Commerce-government plan to educate people just enough to make them good peons — funneling students to DelTech rather than UD — rather than actually educating them.

      I’ve been in Delaware long enough to know that Christina’s big problem is that the area covered by the district grew as a result of white flight, just as Middletown now is growing for the same reason, so that was the hotbed of busing resistance in the first place.

      And it must be acknowledged that busing came about in Delaware primarily because the shrinking tax base of the Wilmington School District was leaving the remaining businesses, primarily DuPont, holding the bag, and they didn’t like it. So they funded the lawsuit that resulted in busing. This is the proximate cause of the decline in the city’s schools.

      So anyone who doesn’t like busing in Delaware should remember to blame DuPont.

  11. Pingback: Odyssey Back Under Formal Review For Racist Comments From Board Members | Exceptional Delaware

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: