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Member Update– Bulletin

                                     Bulletin 148   June 2017

 

At the end of the school/academic year 2015-2016, the Bulletin (June-July 2016, No. 138) observed the educational scene did not allow an integrated review of the status of Hellenic Education in the USA; a comprehensive report of what is being taught and learned and if progress is being made, could not be provided by the multiple actors in the field as they operate independently from everyone else.

Even though the time span of twelve months is too short to accommodate an extensive and long term change in Greek American educational matters, in June 2017 there is sprouting evidence that a serious dynamic change is in the offing. The good news originates from the Odyssey Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware in the form of a spherical report assessing recent activities and didactic accomplishments of the School.This Report in our judgment  provides hopeful documentation that the Odyssey School is embarking on a course to upgrade itself into a research/teaching institution—to serve as proving a ground for modern learning of Greek language and culture in the U.S.A., suitable for the 21st Century.

We have received a copy of this Report and we are most grateful to the Administration and the Teachers of the School for it. We believe it is of such significance that our readers and all those interested in contributing to a  flourishing Hellenic Paideia in America should be well aware of it and guided by it.                                                                                                                                                

Below we present the Report together with an informational attachment, contributed by the College of Education & Human Resources of the University of Delaware, one of the academic institutions assisting the Odyssey School in pedagogic research and learning skills.

                                                                                                          C J E

Odyssey Charter School                                         

Nurturing a Lifelong Love of Learning

School Advancement and Strategic Initiatives

For many years, the leaders of Wilmington’s Greek-American community had talked about—dreamed about—founding a very special school. Their vision was to excite students about learning and position them to succeed in life through the teaching of the Greek language, history and culture as a portal to Humanities and a foundation to Arts and Sciences.

In 2004, the members of AHEPA Chapter 95, at the initiative of George Righos, began an initiative to create Delaware’s first foreign-language/math-focused elementary charter school.  Through their commitment and financial support, Odyssey Charter School opened its first educational facility just two years later in September 2006, matriculating students in grades K – 2.

Today, with 1,440 children in grades K – 9, Odyssey is Delaware’s first dual-language school where Modern Greek is taught as a second language.  Each day, students in all grades receive 45 minutes of language and 45 minutes of mathematics—a total of 7.5 hours weekly.  In addition, students receive one hour per week of instruction in Greek culture, literature, and history, plus one hour of music.  Of Odyssey’s 84 teachers, 18 are native Greek speakers.  The skills learned through this dual-language instruction have enabled Odyssey’s students to exceed every required performance standard of the Delaware Department of Education.

Since its inception, Odyssey Charter School has worked to ensure its long-term financial vitality by matriculating only one grade per year.  This conservative, strategic approach has empowered the school to maintain high standards of educational excellence without overextending its financial capabilities.  Because of Odyssey’s well-deserved reputation for providing children a high-quality education, some 1,212 applicants are presently on our waiting list.  Admissions are governed by a lottery system, which has resulted in a diverse student population representing a high percentage of minority and low-income families.

Since opening its doors in 2006, finding adequate classroom and support space was the single biggest challenge facing Odyssey’s staff on a daily basis.  Over its first eight years, Odyssey needed tens of thousands of square feet of additional space for educational instruction, physical education, and sport activities programming.  Through those same years, however, with prudent budgeting and financial planning, the school maintained a balanced operating budget while consistently increasing its net assets every year.

As a result, in February 2015, on the strength of its financial viability and long-term revenue projections, Odyssey secured a $34 million tax exempt bond, which made possible the purchase of a portion of the Barley Mill Plaza (BMP) Office Complex for $25 million.  Odyssey’s new campus now encompasses 36 acres and six buildings that total 360,000 square feet.  Odyssey School has now consolidated all of its operations at Barley Mill Plaza. It presently occupies three buildings (#20, #21 and #22) totaling 180,000 square feet of instructional space for Grades K – 9.  These three buildings were retrofitted in 2015 and 2016.  Extensive work was simultaneously performed to create high school–level athletic fields and a large playground for students in grades K – 4.  We can proudly say that this initial facilities plan was accomplished on time and within a very limited budget.

In addition, to generate revenue for Odyssey, one of the remaining three vacant buildings—Building #26—has been rented to another charter school.  Building #27 is now also under consideration to become an Early Childhood Education Center. These building utilization initiatives represent only the first step of our Strategic Initiatives and long-term Master Plan to create a multi-purpose educational campus.

Odyssey Charter School Barley Mill Campus

Odyssey Charter School Barley Mill Campus

Below, I am very pleased to provide you a number of the school’s most recent major initiatives and accomplishments. The Educational Partnerships and Initiatives addressed in this report have been commenced for the following reasons:

  • Enhance the ongoing, successful educational efforts of The Odyssey Charter School
  • Support the school’s evolving academic needs and objectives, as Odyssey fully expands into a K-12 educational institution and develops into a world – class campus.

Ultimately, these Educational Partnerships and Initiatives, as well as other similar programs, will be employed for the purpose of innovating, constructing and sustaining a 21st Century Public School Education Model to benefit and advance the school’s educational mission and objectives.

Initiatives and Accomplishments

A. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Partnership

On November 19, 2016, representatives of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh), Rector/President  Dr. Pericles Mitkas and the Dean of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Dr. Marina Mattheoudakis visited Odyssey.

To-date, OCS has been implementing the Foreign Languages for Elementary Schools Program (FLES), which includes 2 hours of foreign (Greek) language teaching per day starting from kindergarten. Current plans foresee the development of this program into an Immersion Program, which according to an agreement with the Delaware State Department of Education will be implemented in stages.

As the bilingual curriculum provides for certain courses to be taught in English and certain to be taught in Greek, the school would need to accomplish and/or secure the following:

  • Integration of the bilingual curricula of all three components of the OCS, which is, Primary, Middle, and High School.
  • Didactic support services and resources and possibilities for assistance from the AUTh.
  • Development of educational research activities on the OCS campus in cooperation with AUTh, University of Delaware, possibly other universities or agencies, including the Delaware State Department of Education on the basis of an MOU.
  • Initial assessment of interest and feasibility for establishment on the OCS campus with the collaboration of Aristotle University of a Center for training teachers of the Greek Language and Culture for public and private schools in North America.
  • A proposal for the visit of Odyssey students 15-17 years old, for two weeks in the summer, to Thessaloniki and to Khalkidhiki AUTh Summer Camp, for Greek language classes; also, such a program to be supported with promotional materials, didactic aids, videos, on line courses, etc.

To achieve this goal, OCS asked AUTh to provide expert assistance for the needed resources. In the discussion, it was proposed and agreed that AUTh would send professors to OCS in February 2017, so that they can collect needed data, observe classes, have discussions with teachers, understand how the school works, what the curriculum is and how it is implemented. Professors Dr. Marina Mattheoudakis and r. Despina Desli (Mathematics expert) returned to the US in February of this year and spent one week at the school evaluating the Greek Program.  Upon their return to Greece, they provided a Report outlining their findings and recommendations for a path forward.

Between February and June 2017 a task team will begin the drafting of the integrated bilingual curriculum. In June 2017, some teachers from the OCS would visit Thessaloniki in order to participate in a workshop where the proposal of the bilingual curricula would be presented.

The AUTh visitors also met with Dr. Dennis Assanis, President of the University of Delaware. At their meeting, they had the opportunity to discuss the possibility of establishing a collaborative program between the two universities and Odyssey Charter School. To this end, the signing of an MOU is imminent.

Most importantly, Dr. Marina Mattheoudakis has received permission from Dr. Mitkas/AUTh to spend one full year at Odyssey, starting July 2017, for the purpose of leading all of the above-referenced efforts. Presently, Odyssey is preparing her visa application.

B. Early Childhood Education Partnership with Universities of Patras and Delaware

The Project

Odyssey has been invited to participate in the above-referenced partnership and it is planning to utilize Building 27 as the location of this educational project. This type of Facility will be consistent with the current Race to the Top statewide efforts and objectives and will contribute immensely to the community’s quality of life.

The Mission:

  • Make accessible the Early Care Educational and Human Development Services to those who truly need them and place the interests of children with high needs at the forefront!

The Strategic Outcomes:

  • Be inclusive of all programs and resources of early childhood to ensure a systemic approach to serving all children and primarily the underserved.
  • Develop areas of exemplary practice that will contribute to the State, National and International efforts
  • Create a Financially Sustainable Operation
  • Bring together and utilize via a collaboration arrangement the strengths and vast experience of the following key stakeholders and partners
  1. Odyssey Charter School
  • contribute via a leased building 27 as proposed facility
  • provide infrastructure and land use permits
  • participate with BMP campus shared resources
  1. University of Patras Department of Educational Sciences
  • Early childhood education – Dr. Vasiliki Riga
  • curriculum development and UNESCO credentials
  1. University of Delaware Early Childhood Education/Human Development Departments
  • Early childhood lab – Dr. Carol Vulkevich, Dr. Bahira Trask, Dr. Cynthia Paris
  • Human Development and Family Studies – Dr. Rena Hallam
  1.  AMERICAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF ATHENS
  • Expertise in world class K-112 education – Dr. Stefanos Gialamas, President

The collaboration between these 4 institutions has begun already, as students and faculty have been participating in the implementation of a number of programs that started in the Fall of 2016.

C. Odyssey 10th Year Anniversary Ceremonies and Campus Dedication

The school, under the leadership of Wilmington Chapter #95, Order of AHEPA, executed a most impressive celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Odyssey Charter School, a school that was created under their watchful eye and guidance. The program included a recreation of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, wonderful artistic presentations and the presentation of a poignant documentary that segued into the delivery of a Flame from Ancient Olympia delivered by two members of the Greek National Track team.  The day culminated with the 10th annual 5k Run/Walk fundraiser to benefit the school.

The celebration began with a Parade of Nations featuring the students of the school, followed by the American and Greek National Anthems performed by the students. In a day that featured non-stop high points, the over 1,000 people in attendance were treated to the documentary that related the fraternization of the Odyssey school with the three schools of Ancient Olympia, effectively creating sister schools. Under the initiative of Dimitri Dandolos, President of the Odyssey School Board, the schools signed the agreements on the sacred grounds of Ancient Olympia, at the tomb of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games. The documentary detailed the gifting of an authentic 2004 Olympic torch from the mayor of Ancient Olympia and Olive Wreaths gifted to the students of Odyssey from the students of Ancient Olympia Schools. The torch and the wreaths then took a course past Greece’s historic treasures under the care of Greek National Track Team Champions Despina Mourta and Dino Dendopoulos. We are pleased to provide you with a copy of the DVD presenting these activities in Greece and the USA.

The two Greek Champion athletes carrying the Olympic Torch and Wreath with exuberant Odyssey Students

The two Greek Champion athletes carrying the Olympic Torch and Wreath with exuberant Odyssey Students

Upon its arrival to Delaware, the athletes carried the torch and the wreath past various local venues, even receiving the Native American blessing of the Indian Nation Lenape Chief, Quiet Thunder, whose ancestors were among the first inhabitants of what is now Delaware. The documentary ended with the athletes carrying the Olympic Flame on the campus of the school to the thunderous standing ovation from the audience before lighting the special Olympic Cauldron that is now a permanent fixture under the flag poles at the school. It was truly a moving experience and many people were brought to tears of joy during this special moment.

The students of the school then performed a choreographic spectacular, featuring “An Ancient Memory,” music created especially for this event by Ms. Sevasti (Sevy) Phalangas, music teacher. Dignitaries included Delaware US Senator Chris Coons who proclaimed “sinhariteria” (congratulations), during his remarks, Congressman John Carney (newly elected Delaware Governor), AHEPA District #5 Governor George Petrakakis and AHEPA Supreme Governor, Region #3, Chris Diamantoukos. Delaware Governor Jack Markell sent a video salutation in which he honored the excellence and growth of the Odyssey Charter School. The formal ribbon cutting celebrating the expansion of the school included members of AHEPA, dignitaries, and administrators of the school.

The presentation concluded with Ms. Phalangas performing “Trumpet of Glory,” a song that she had written and performed in Greece for the Marathon Race and during the Paralympics of the Sydney 2000 Games and the Athens 2004 Games. The day’s festivities ended with the annual 5k Walk/Run, which drew over 400 runners. A complimentary luncheon, provided by the event sponsor, Real Greek Artisan, was enjoyed by everyone to wrap up this truly memorable and historic day.

D. Odyssey, The Boundless Journey Documentary

In this documentary, Odyssey Charter School is proud to bring the Olympic Torch and the Values and the Ideals of the Olympic Games, from Ancient Olympia, Greece to Delaware for the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Founding of the School and the Dedication of its new Campus.

Odyssey’s story began ten years ago through the vision and hard work of AHEPA leaders who dreamed of building a school in gratitude to our community and commitment to our children.  Since its inception, Odyssey has embraced students, families, educators, and friends of the school—all of us striving to achieve educational excellence and to fundamentally contribute to our community’s quality of life. The school’s success to-date are a testament to our great journey together!

With the dedication of our recently acquired campus, we officially proclaimed Odyssey’s new home as a safe harbor and a center of inspiration for young minds to learn and to grow. With your support the Odyssey family will continue on a long voyage, one of adventure, discovery, and bridges built of friendship and cooperation here at home and around the world.

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We would like to provide our sincere thanks and gratitude to all the generous Sponsors and Supporters of our school for setting sail with us and for being a big part of Odyssey’s boundless journey!

 E. Odyssey Academic Performance

This past academic year Odyssey delivered outstanding results in the new Smarter Balanced statewide testing, as seen below. Our teachers and administrators joined together to ensure our students demonstrated their academic strength. Many grades performed at ~30% to 50% better than their peers across the state!

Math

Grade OCS Proficiency State Proficiency Diff – %
3 72 53 27
4 71 46 36
5 77 37 51
6 60 34 44
7 63 36 43

Reading

Grade OCS Proficiency State Proficiency Diff – %
3 75 54 28
4 77 53 32
5 87 55 37
6 72 48 34
7 60 34 44

The effective cooperation between the Department of Human Development and FamilyStudies of the University of Delaware (HDFS) and the Odyssey Charter School in 2016-2017,  in establishing educational exchanges on Early Childhood Education (ECE) between their respective faculties and students is further highlighted in the following newsletter circulated by HDFS:

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Under the robust leadership of Dimitri Dandolos, Chairperson of the Board, and the watchful eye of the Delaware AHEPANS, the Odyssey Charter School of Wilmington DE is now grappling with the most crucial challenge faced in Greek American schooling: to seamlessly and functionally integrate American and Greek Curricula used in all grades of the School. To do this, the School Administration has most recently extended agreed partnerships to include three universities (The Aristotle U. of Thessaloniki, The U. of Patras and the U. of Delaware) as well as an unlikely yet relevant school, the American Community School in Athens; all these resource institutions enable now their experts to engage and resolve collaboratively the above difficult challenge.

The School, as described in previous pages, is accommodating the experts in their composite task by securing needed facilities to research and practice their expertise on site, that is in the 3 units of the School (Primary, Middle, and High School).

Avowedly, this is a historically unprecedented but vitally needed innovation, in context of Hellenic Education applied to children growing in America who in their majority have no hereditary affinities for the Greek language and culture.

It should be remembered that the Greek American community, clamoring voices have demanded action for years to ensure the learning of Greek language and culture by the upcoming new generations. An opportunity to satisfy this need will be likely to present itself, even on an unanticipated larger scale,  if the cultivation of the work initiated at the Odyssey Charter School manages to reach its completion. The quality of education of a well-appointed unified American/Greek curriculum will go a long way to dispense an education addressing contemporary personal and societal needs, based on sound classical foundations, which is above the current pedagogic norms—or to say it in scholarly Greek—είναι εις το άκρον άωτον της παιδαγωγικής τελειότητος.

Is the society ready to assume the responsibility to move the educational system in the direction determined by experts? For the time being, we know only that the society of Delaware is ready, currently presenting the Odyssey Charter School with a four-digit list of applicants for while only two-digit seats are available for matriculation! Therefore, at least as much as the Hellenic Link is concerned, its members, co-workers and friends can be justifiably proud and prepared to continue their enthusiastic support of the activities reported herein.

CJE

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June: Festival Time!

It is a well-entrenched tradition of the Greek Orthodox communities in America to hold annual festivals, usually in June, open and reaching out not only to their parishioners but to the entire populace of the towns where the churches are located. Yes, the “Greek Festival” is local, but in essence, a Pan-American event enshrined and savored annually by many!

In this issue, we co-celebrate and present happily in detail the four-day Festival organized by the Community of the Holy Trinity in Egg HarborTownsYhip of NJ. The presentation is in the form of a video that reached us through the courtesy of Evgenia Kramvis; it illustrates vividly the ambiance and the spirit of the celebration, as it focuses on the featured activities of fun and enjoyment of a flood of participants.

We hope that our readers, especially those living overseas, will catch the spirit and get a good idea of the significance of this cultural manifestation of the Greeks in America. We also hope to transmit in the future analogous festivals of other communities, interspersed in the vast domain of the USA.

CJE

Dear Editor of  the Hellenic Link Bulletin:

Our grateful thank you to all our visitors who came to our 35th annual 2017 June Festival, for your support and helping to make it the success it was.  We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did hosting it for the community

Please enjoy the presentation by Cosmos Philly in the link below.  There are beautiful photographs and an amazing video which capture the wonderful atmosphere, of fellowship, fun, and family created by our Holy Trinity family, dance groups, volunteers, and visitors.  Well done to everyone!

https://cosmosphilly.com/love-dance-holy-trinity-greek-festival/

P.S. We wish all fathers, grandfathers, and godfathers. a wonderful Father’s Day celebration this Sunday, June 18th.

Save the Date for  Holy Trinity’s 35th Anniversary Celebration and our Trinity Learning Center’s 10th Anniversary on Saturday, October 14th  2017.

On behalf of Father George and our Holy Trinity Parishioners, we look forward to welcoming you again at our Winter Feast 2018.

With great appreciation,

Eugenia Kramvis                                                                                                                               Outreach Program Coordinator, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 7004 Ridge Road,       Egg Harbor Township, NJ, tel. 609 344-2967; email: ekramvis@comcast.net