Wednesday, April 05, 2000

CFT sues charter schools

Union suspects lack of oversight

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers on Tuesday filed suit against four of the city's five community schools, saying the schools won't comply with state open records laws in a case that the union hopes will highlight the state's lack of oversight.

        The 3,800-member union filed the suit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court because its requests for information in November were either ignored or not fulfilled.

        “The state is not really monitoring these schools, and obviously we suspect there are some problems,” said union President Tom Mooney.

        The state has 48 charter schools, which use state funds but operate separately from local school districts.

        Ohio Department of Education spokeswoman Monica Zarichny said charter schools must comply with open records laws.

        ““Parents have a right to know the truth about charters and taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going,” Mr. Mooney said.

        The information sought included teacher and student turnover, dates and results of any admission lotteries, curricula, faculty and student handbooks, budgets and lists of teachers and their certification levels.

        The city has five charter schools with enrollment of about 1,800 students.

        Named in the suit are Greater Cincinnati Community Academy, Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, Harmony Community School and Riverside Academy. Mr. Mooney said the fifth charter, Oak Tree Montessori, made “a good-faith effort” to provide information.

        GCCA and Cincinnati College Prep did not respond, Mr. Mooney said, while Riverside and Harmony provided answers he called “nonrespon sive.”

        Harmony attorney Phyllis Brown provided a letter that she sent to the union March 7 that included most of the requested information.

        “We look forward to the challenge, and this is something that needs to be settled,” said Harmony Principal David Nordyke, whose 396-student school in Roselawn is in its second year.

        Representatives from the other three schools did not return phone calls.

        Riverside provided a school budget, but said last month in a letter to the teachers union that several of the requested documents did not exist, therefore did not have to be produced. Mr. Mooney said the school refused to produce its faculty handbook, saying that was “proprietary information.”

        Riverside is operated by Akron-based White Hat Management, a nonprofit organization.


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