Board suspends charters for two Columbus schools

During a special meeting Wednesday, the Governing Board of the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center passed a resolution to suspend two charter schools in Columbus indefinitely.

The resolution passed with an unanimous vote.

The schools, Talented Tenth Leadership Academy for Boys and the Talented Tenth Leadership Academy for Girls, were forced to shut down earlier this month by State Superintendent Richard Ross.

The school for boys, located in the King Arts Complex on Mount Vernon Avenue, and the girls’ school, located at the Trinity Baptist Church on St. Clair Avenue, were closed for health and safety reasons following several visits from Ohio Department of Education employees. The Talented Tenth schools aimed to serve at-risk middle-school students.

The schools opened Sept. 25. The school founder and superintendent, Andre Tucker, said they were not even given a chance to work through their issues.

NCOESC is the sponsor for the schools. The center is the sponsor for 21 community schools in Ohio. According to the release provided by ODE, the educational service center has attempted to open 16 community schools, including six schools that either failed to open or have been shuttered within a few weeks of opening.

“The sponsor of these two schools failed to provide the proper oversight and make sure the schools were upholding their commitment to provide a safe environment for students to be educated,” Ross said in a release from ODE.

“They did not ensure the safety of the students, they did not adequately feed the students, they did not accurately track the students and they were not educating the students well,” the release stated. “It is unacceptable and intolerable that a sponsor and school would do such a poor job. It is an educational travesty.”

NCOESC Superintendent Jim Lahoski had been asked to meet with Ross to discuss the issue. Lahoski said the meeting was truthful and they were on the same page.

“We look forward to continue to work with ODE,” Lahoski said.

Lahoski said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch, “We have been down to that school, I can’t tell you how many times. So we’ve been monitoring it. We’ve expressed concerns all along to our legal counsel that we need to keep our eye on it. We want to be a good sponsor; in doing so, we’re going to do what’s right.”

Several emails and phone calls had been made to the schools, Lahoski said.

According to the resolution, the schools had their operations suspended on the grounds of 10 issues, including noncompliance with health and safety standards established by law for school buildings; failure to enroll at least 25 students; failure to properly educate students; failure to provide adequate food service to students; failure to adequately supervise students; altercations between staff members and employees and other tenants of the leased premises; failure to ensure students were taught by licensed teachers; lack of adequate instructional materials; and lack of funds.

According to Tucker, the schools had enrolled 65 students between the schools. He said the account of the students had not been reported to the state by the ESC.

In a response to the ESC, Tucker said that on the first day of school, 41 boys were enrolled and 32 girls were enrolled.

Lahoski said the numbers that the ESC had to report to the state were significantly different. He said that from the numbers, one of the schools does not qualify to open.

Tucker had also reported that several times, the girls had been locked out of the building for several hours and had to have class at the public library and at the boys’ school due to issues with the landlord.

Tucker said he remains employed with the schools and said he plans to file a motion to continue to operate the schools through the Franklin County Courts.

“Because they have had a hand in the issues with the schools, (NCOESC) has decide to close the school. At the end of the day, these are inner-city, at-risk kids whom the staff work with everyday and they had not seen one,” Tucker said. “Over 70 parents are outraged and heartbroken that their children have been displaced because of lies and false information.”

The next step for the NCOESC is to let the board of the two schools know they had been notified about the indefinite suspension and to further action through the appropriate NCOESC resolutions, Lahoski said.