Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 8:31 AM
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.