Ohio

Eye on Education

Teachers Deliver Alarming Allegations Against Charter School

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Horizon Science Academy

The state board of education is launching an investigation into at least one charter school after hearing disturbing testimony from a group of former teachers.

Sexual misconduct, racism, teacher intimidation, questionable testing policies, and mishandling of complaints about those claims were among the allegations the teachers brought to a meeting of the state board of education meeting Tuesday.

The teachers were all former employees of the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School, a charter school managed by the Chicago-based Concept Schools.

Timothy Neary taught at the high school for two years. He says he witnessed a culture racism and sexism.

He also said the schools attendance reports didn’t seem right.

“In terms of when I saw that we got a 97% attendance rate I just would look over my class roster and be like ‘I never had a full class almost every single day,” Neary said.  “So those are just things that are very alarming and I know that that was one of the state indicators that indicates whether a school gets money.”

He says students were punished differently based on race adding that many top school officials are of Turkish descent. According to Neary, Turkish students would receive preferential treatment—especially compared to black students.

The group also said students would engage in inappropriate sexual activities but weren’t disciplined by school officials.

Kellie Kochensparger, who taught at the high school for three years.

“It was very well known at the school that I worked for that if you complained you would not have a job,” she said, adding that there are many more accounts of improper behavior at the Dayton charter high school, but many teachers fear retribution and won’t come forward—fearing retribution.

“100% I believe that and there are even teachers who’ve left who are still too afraid to share their stories,” she said.

The state school board president says the board will move forward with an investigation. The FBI is already reportedly carrying out its own inquiry into Concept Schools, which has about 19 schools in Ohio.

State School Board Member Mike Collins said he was alarmed by the allegations, and that the testimony suggests that the state’s oversight policies on financial and achievement issues for charter schools need some work.

“The difficulty you have is there are not the same requirements for tracking systems and reporting for both our traditional public schools and charter schools,” said Collins.

“That doesn’t mean they don’t have any so don’t misunderstand that—but they’re not the same and so the transparency at this point from my vantage point is lacking.”

Two teachers told the board that they filed complaints with the department of education in the past but did not receive a response.

Republican Senator Peggy Lehner of Kettering, who also chairs the Senate Education Committee, says she wants a thorough investigation. She also hopes the state will review the process for which these allegations are reported.

“I think that’s obviously one of the things that has to be looked at here as this goes forward is: Did something actually occur and were the processes in place to try and address it earlier?”

A request for comment from the Horizon Science Academy in Dayton was forwarded to Concept Schools in Chicago. The group offered a written statement that did not address the allegations, but did say the schools prioritize ensuring a “safe” and “professional” school environment.

The statement also says Concept Schools will continue to maintain the highest standards of excellence for students, faculty and themselves.

Comments

  • Rawhide

    What I find amazing is the State does not look beyound the standard audit procedures. “Figures lie and liers figure.” is what happens .The state accepts whatecver material that is handed to them. I can attest that employees are afriad to “tell it like it really is” but even if they wanted to there isn”t a process in place or an enity that they could trust to address isuues with. I work at a Charter school and know that real issues cannot be addresed.
    Its like buying a used car “looks good on the surface but its whats under the hood thats important”

  • Zoe

    I certainly hope that this matter is handled quickly and thoroughly. I also hope that readers keep in mind that anyone can make a complaint and when the complaint is received, it has to be investigated. An investigation in no way means guilt, it simply means that someone spoke up. They might be inaccurate or they might even be lying. Some of these allegations are easily verified, such as the attendance issue. Did this school report 97% attendance? That’s easy to find out.

  • peloubet

    I worked for the Horizon/Concept schools and you have to understand the culture of the country of origin of who actually runs this company and the overall male dominant culture of the Turkish/Mulsim family. I have great respect for the people that I worked with that were very much interested in school improvement and doing a good job. But when Directors are in fear for their jobs if they do not generate required revenues they do run the risk of being “sent back”. These schools or at least the ones that I had contact with do not understand special needs students nor the laws that protect them at all. I was told by students when I arrived that teachers prior to my arrival had been giving the students answers to state tests. i did put a stop to many of these practices and was able to educate and bring the schools that I was associated with into state compliance. There are many difficulties faced by employees especially females. Because they do take verbal abuse more than males. But the female Turkish employees many times were not even paid for teaching services as they were the wives of directors of teachers and this was expected at times. So there are problems but whether or not they can be addressed short of the schools being taken over by an national company I do not know. Also until Ohio corrects the 1/3 that is withheld from charter schools students tuition and is paid to the local school district for absolutely no reason Ohio charter schools will continue to struggle. Ohio is the only state in the nation where this practice takes place.

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