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Politics & Government

More possible misuse of funds at Odyssey Charter School

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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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An Odyssey townhall from March

More examples of possible misuse of state funding at Odyssey Charter School are coming to light.

The Delaware Department of Education placed Odyssey on formal review last month after complaints it misused state funding and conflicts of interest involving the American Hellenic Educational Association.

But now Odyssey School Board member Elias Rigas says former board president Dimitri Dandalos authorized $177,000 in additional construction work on AHEPA’s Ithaka Early Learning Center without the board’s knowledge. It previously acknowledged spending $91,500 on the center.

It comes just before Monday’s final meeting of the Charter School Accountability Committee conducting the school’s review.

Rigas said Dandalos and Chatham Bay’s President Jay Freebery decided to do the work and hope fundraising and Ithaka’s launch would generate the revenue to pay the company. The project is now dormant.

“They proceeded to go along that route," he said. "But when that didn’t didn’t go well for Ithaka, then the contractor decided ‘I still want my money and who am I going to get my money from? I can’t get it from Ithaka. Let me go see if I can get it from Odyssey Charter School.'”

Rigas sees a problem that Dandalos didn’t tell the Odyssey board and served on it and Ithaka’s board.

“And that definitely caused a little bit of a conflict, which is one of the issues that we’re addressing as part of the governance of Odyssey in general,” he said.

Freebery disputes Rigas’s account and a similar one laid out in a message Friday on behalf of School Board President Josiah Wolcott.

Freebery said he worked for Odyssey not Ithaka. He adds he dealt with Odyssey Campus Operations Officer Riccardo Stoeckitcht throughout the construction period and has submitted a bill for payment several times.

Rigas said Dandalos paid $23,000 for Ithaka construction work. He said some or all of it came from a February gala benefiting Odyssey and Ithaka. Dandalos denies misusing funds, but declined to comment further.

Rigas also said a $100,000 Welfare Foundation grant to Ithaka was instead moved to Odyssey, but he claimed the foundation approved the transfer.

The Welfare Foundation says a $100,000 grant application by Ithaka to retrofit a building was approved in December 2017, contingent on Ithaka raising $800,000 by June 30, 2018. The foundation says Ithaka informed the foundation in Spring 2018 that it would not meet the deadline and subsequenty withdrew its grant application

The Welfare Foundation says conncurrently Oydssey applied for a separate $100,000 grant to retrofit another building and construct and athletic center.  The foundation says that grant was approved and paid to Odyssey in June 2018 and it understands that project is moving along as intended.

Ed Note:  A previous version of this story only included Elias Rigas’ claim that a $100,000 Welfare Fundation grant to Ithaka Early Learning Center was moved to Odyssey Charter with the foundation’s approval.  The Welfare Foundation disputed that claim. The story has been updated to include the Welfare Foundation’s accounting of the grant applications it received from Ithaka and Odyssey. 

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