Officials place Delaware charter school on formal review

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware charter school already on probation because of concerns about its governance and finances has been placed under formal review by the state Education Department, officials announced Friday.

Secretary of Education Susan Bunting placed Odyssey Charter School under review, triggering an investigative process to determine whether the school violated its charter and the probationary conditions of its charter renewal.

The move comes one day after the News Journal of Wilmington reported that members of the Odyssey board of directors made jokes regarding a neighboring dual-language charter school with a mostly Hispanic student population at a January meeting.

The Delaware Department of Education said Bunting condemns the “discriminatory statements” that Odyssey board members are accused of making about Academia Antonia Alonso Charter School.

Odyssey, a Greek-themed school, sits next to Academia Antonia Alonso on property that was once a DuPont Co. office site in Wilmington.

During a recorded discussion about potential parking restrictions, an Odyssey board member noted that he had told school administrators "somewhat in jest" to erect a fence, the newspaper reported.

"And they're going to pay for it," someone else added before muttering, "I'm just joking."

Laughter ensued as another person said, "build the wall," according to the newspaper, which reported that a board member tried to steer the conversation back on track before noting “the jokes write themselves.”

Odyssey Board President Josiah Wolcott sent a statement to the News Journal apologizing and said he will call for the resignation of the board member responsible.

Wolcott said he had reached out to several consultants to schedule sensitivity training and has discussed the training and the board member's resignation with leaders of Antonia Alonso.

Antonia Alonso Board President Maria Teresa Alonso also called for the resignations of Odyssey board members.

After a Charter School Accountability Committee hearing on Odyssey's finances and governance practices, state officials placed the school on probation last summer until June 30 of this year and directed that it recover more than $93,000 in misappropriated funds.

State officials had earlier expressed concerns about the influence that the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association has exercised over Odyssey. They also questioned Odyssey's use of funds to start an early learning center.

Odyssey's charter required that five of its nine board members be appointed by AHEPA, a Greek-American fraternal group.

As part of its probation, Odyssey was directed to revise its bylaws so that, as of Jan. 1 of this year, the majority of its board members were not members of AHEPA organizations. State officials also required that nominations for future openings on non-AHEPA board seats be done only by a committee consisting only of non-AHEPA board members.

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