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Department of Education Accuses Portage County Educational Service Center of Circumventing the Law and Misleading Students and Teachers

Release date: 8/27/2014

COLUMBUS, OH – A northeast Ohio educational service center that is trying to open an unauthorized community school has “so completely disregarded” state laws that the Ohio Department of Education is reporting its leaders to the state’s educator conduct office.

In a letter sent Monday, the Ohio Department of Education accused Portage County Educational Service Center leaders of trying to circumvent the law and mislead students and teachers by opening a new charter school under a defunct school’s state identification number.

The letter told the educational service center that the department is reporting Superintendent Dewey L. Chapman and Executive Director Cheryl Emrich to the state’s Office of Professional Conduct, which investigates alleged misdeeds by educators. Additionally, any waste, fraud, abuse of tax dollars or alteration of student enrollment data will be immediately reported to Auditor of State David Yost.

The Ohio Department of Education is demanding that the educational service center drop all further action to open the school and conclude activities it already has undertaken, such as hiring teachers and staff. The department will closely supervise that process.

The department said in the letter that it is making the move because the Portage County Educational Service Center’s actions “so completely disregard the interests of students, parents and the public….and have been detrimental to the welfare of children as well as school teachers and staff.”

Ohio already has banned the center from opening new charter schools—for the second time in three years—because students in schools it has authorized have shown poor academic performance.

The letter noted that the operator Portage County Educational Service Center had contracted with for the new Cincinnati school, to be called Hope 4 Change Academy, had no experience running a K-12 school. It also said the center failed to confirm the school operator would protect the health and safety of students and ensure academic rigor. The letter maintained that the center did not require the operator to prove it was financially fit to open and maintain the school.

“It’s our job to safeguard students and families from low-quality charter schools that misrepresent themselves for their own gain,” said State Superintendent Richard A. Ross.

This summer, the department has encouraged schools it considers “effective,” such as Cincinnati Public Schools, the Cincinnati Diocese and several high-quality charter schools, to accept children from VLT Academy, a defunct charter school in the same area. The Portage County Educational Service Center had marketed Hope 4 Change Academy to VLT students and families. The department of education now is requiring the center to work with “legitimate school providers” to transfer the students it has already registered.

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