Friday, June 07, 2002

Leaders, parents fight for embattled school




By Earnest Winston, ewinston@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The leadership and parents of a beleaguered Mount Auburn charter school Thursday announced they are forming a coalition to try to keep it open.

        “We're in a fight to save our school,” Derrick Shelton, director of the nearly 650-student Sabis International School of Cincinnati, said during a news conference at the school.

        “It's unfortunate, but the current school board that governs (the school) has taken an act to close the school.” As a result, he said, “... We're going to be asking parents, the community, staff, students who want to help us in this fight to come together to form a coalition to help save our school for our kids.”

        Charter schools are state-funded public schools with a specific philosophy and run by parents, educators or nonprofit groups. Their numbers have grown from 15 in 1998, when they opened in Ohio, to 93 today.

        Classes at the 2-year-old school, which serves nearly 650 students in grades K-7, will end June 14. But the future of the school remains in doubt.

        The school's board of trustees canceled the contract with Sabis Educational Systems, saying it wants a new management company to run the school's daily operations.

        Mr. Shelton and other school officials today will appear before Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel, seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the school open. Minnesota-based Sabis Educational Systems Inc. has sued the board for breach of contract.

        Parents also sued the school's board in May, saying the board's action to close the school was illegal because it violated the state's Sunshine Law.

        Fredrick Carnes, of downtown, said his daughter Jewell, a sixth-grader at Sabis, had “given up on going to school” before he took her out of public schools and enrolled her at Sabis.

        “Since she's been at Sabis, she wants to be at school every day; she's involved in the school; she loves coming here; she loves her teachers; and, the most important thing, her grades have risen,” Mr. Carnes said.

        “I'll do whatever is necessary to make sure that Sabis can stay open.”

        Mr. Shelton said school officials are appealing to Cincinnati Public Schools and other chartering agencies to issue the school a new charter.

        In April, the board sued in U.S. District Court in Columbus alleging fraud and corruption, saying the state failed to properly audit and assist the school.

        In a lawsuit filed in March in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, the board sued to have the school closed, saying the management company was improperly profiting from the nonprofit school.

       



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