January 6, 2017
Welcome Back and Happy New Year!
We have all just returned from an amazing Winter break and New Year’s Holiday. I hope that the time away provided everyone with a well-earned and much deserved opportunity to celebrate the joys of the season. Hopefully, all of you had time for both a few new adventures and some long held traditions with families and friends.
Our family found this extended two week stretch to be a wonderful opportunity to engage in some different kinds of activities here at home. We participated in a wide variety of activities around the house getting ready for Christmas Eve and in the community celebrating New Year’s Day. From the many conversations I have had with members of the Odyssey community since our return, it is readily apparent that vacation served a similar purpose for many of you.
Your children have returned to us enthusiastic, well rested and ready for the challenges in the year ahead. Thank you all for helping to prepare them for another exciting new year of learning, growth and development.
While many of us adults are making resolutions for 2017 to lose weight, save money, and live life to the fullest, Odyssey Charter School students and staff have resumed their efforts to make the new school year meaningful, challenging and engaging. It is our sincerest hope that 2017 will provide your children with the many diverse opportunities they need in helping them to rise to life’s new challenges and become their best selves.
As you know well, the past four years have seen Odyssey embark on a rapid expansion onto our new campus. Odyssey has come a long way the past 10 years and we want to sincerely thank all of our families who has stuck with our program in the face of monumental change. We have evolved from a dream by a group of Ahepans, to a school with a beautiful 36-acre unified campus that has recently been recognized by MSN as Delaware’s Premier Elementary School and Governor Markell for “exceptional academic achievement.”
With this growth comes massive change and many new challenges. While Odyssey’s primary focus is on Greek language acquisition, superior academics, safe educational environment, and student wellness, new challenges continue to emerge with our ongoing growth. To maintain this continuity of services and focus on our long-term goals, we have recently:
- Conducted our Choice Process taking a number of steps to refocus our message to prospective families highlighting the above commitments for the school. These efforts and some staffing realignments this year have resulted in a much more normalized level of student issues at the school.
- In light of two very difficult and unfortunate student situations immediately prior to the holiday break, we have had a series of administrative, parent, staff and Board meetings to clearly outline the schools expectations for appropriate behaviors. Board Members have been made clear about the processes in place for parents with concerns. The Board President and some officers have recently expressed confidence with Administration’s compliance the Department of Education’s expectations and mandatory reporting requirements, as well as our school’s initiatives to promote positive student interactions and character development.
- Additionally, the Administration and Board are committing additional resources to bring on additional special education and other specialists in order to best support all students who attend our school.
- We are also establishing relationships with professionals in education and wellness communities to supplement these efforts.
All of these efforts signal a renewed commitment to our parent and greater professional community about our earnest intent to provide your children with one of the safest, educationally challenging opportunities with a focus on student well-being available anywhere in Delaware.
In addition to the efforts of our Student Advisory Program, we are also currently engaged with our PTO to help students address a variety of wellness topics. These include self-esteem, making good decisions, dealing with peer pressure and bullying.
Parents are reminded that wellness is more than just not being sick. The World Health Organization notes, “Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.” Odyssey’s evolving approach to wellness is becoming more comprehensive. Under this Administration, we are using this approach to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to understand and practice physical, social, occupational, intellectual, and cultural wellness.
It is our belief that we are one of the schools that, as espoused in our Breaking Ranks Model of school reform, have created one of the safest and most personalized small school environments promoting student wellness in the area. Promoting wellness is an evolving process that grows and adjusts to meet the needs and demands of the Odyssey Community as we continue to grow. To help sustain this ongoing process:
- We will continue to address the idea of wellness and offer practical advice on general wellness strategies through Advisory, small and individual group counseling, whole school approaches and whatever the situation demands.
- Additionally, our Physical Education and Health classes offer students many wellness topics, ranging from fun sessions like yoga, and a variety of physical fitness options, to more serious ones, including eating disorders, personal finance, and suicide prevention.
- County Police Community Relations officers have provided presentations on the law and what it means to be a legal adult.
- Community mentors have been brought to the school to work with one-on-one with students in need.
- Additional community organizations have be brought in to voluntarily address Child Abuse and optional Teen Dating issues. These sessions will seek to teach students how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and how to avoid them.
- Local attorneys from our parent community will be brought in to offer sessions on The Cost of being adults. These presentations explore all of the costs—financial and more—associated with bad habits.
- We will look to become more involved in career interest inventories and career days, bringing in professional speaker series through the PTO volunteers and our Career and Technical Education Programs.
Involving the staff, our local community and our PTO will give adults the opportunity to interact and share what they know and love with our students on timely and appropriate topics. And it also gives students an opportunity to see the adults in their lives doing something outside of the school realm and to see that life extends beyond the walls of Odyssey Charter School. The staff and PTO have embraced this kind of support not only by initiating interest in aspects of student wellness, but also by offering financial support and material donations for use by the Administration and staff.
It is our hope that all students find an interest to help them enjoy their lives more, skills to help them cope with their daily struggles, and information to help them make wise decisions. Most of all, we want students to understand that everyone can benefit from learning and sharing strategies to tackle all of life’s challenges.
The guiding principle in all these wellness initiatives is to encourage students to think actively about their overall well-being, and if they need assistance, they have make connections with an adult in this building who can assist them going forward.
I hope the New Year brings you good health, happiness and all the blessings of hope that a New Year brings to everyone.
Happy New Year!
Dr. Nick T. Manolakos
Odyssey Charter School