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Allegations prompt state review of Odyssey Charter School

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Staff members wear blue Odyssey sweatshirts and question Board President Joe Wolcott during a January town hall meeting

The Delaware Department of Education is investigating Odyssey Charter School after allegations of potential violations.

DOE is starting a formal review because it says the school failed to fully address a variety of complaints dating back at least one year.

The main issue is the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) which helped launch the school in 2006 and appoints 5 of the school board's 9  members.

The Public Integrity Commission made five recommendations to the Odyssey board, including changing its bylaws so the male-only AHEPA, or the equivalent female-only group Daughters of Penelope do not make up a majority of the school board or school administrators. It also recommended not placing association members on hiring committees and having board members stay away from an early learning center project.

The board only committed to adopting some recommendations. Board President Josiah Wolcott says they want association members to have a majority on the board.

“We wanted some clarification about the DOE wanted or expected," he said. "But we addressed each of the recommendations from the Public Integrity Commission as best the board could.”

The letter from Education Secretary Susan Bunting outlines six allegations including misuse of state funding, conflicts of interest and gender discrimination. Wolcott disputes some of those allegations.

The letter alleges the school board president is chosen by the association and excludes women from the decision. The school board also once talked about finding a job for a former school board president, who was involved in creating the job description and qualifications for the position. The hiring committee, also chosen by the association, approved selecting that person, although he was not ultimately hired.

Wolcott says he believes AHEPA does not have too much influence over the school.

“The people who have you know day-to-day influence over the school are the people on the ground," he said. "The head of school and the campus operations officers, both of which are not AHEPAns.”

Another complaint alleges $108,000 went from Odyssey to the Ithaka Early Learning Center, a tenant of the charter school. The school claims it was a loan, but a Public Integrity Commission review found no documentation. Wolcott said the project is now dormat.

The Charter School Accountability Committee begins the formal review process at a May 28th meeting. The first public hearing is June 11th in Dover.

A decision on what action, if any, will be taken against Odyssey Charter is expected to be made at the State Board of Education's meeting July 18.  Formal review can result in no action, probation or revocation of a school's charter.

DOE Odyssey Formal Review letter by Delaware Public Media on Scribd

Odyssey Letter to DE Dept. of Education by Delaware Public Media on Scribd

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