Tuesday, January 14, 2003

State board considers contract for Oak Tree

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The state board of education today will consider a one-year probationary contract for Oak Tree Montessori, one of the state's original 15 charter schools that opened five years ago.

The contract renewal for the 81-student Over-the-Rhine school was postponed in December because the state had questions regarding the contract, including lax financial and student data reporting, according to state officials.

"They must comply with the requirements that are part and parcel of operating in the public venue," said Steve Burigana, executive director of the Office of Community Schools at the Ohio Department of Education. The school's state funding has already been cut by 10 percent because of the reporting failures, he said.

Oak Tree is among four charter schools with contract renewals pending after state evaluations of the schools. Seven others have been approved. Another local charter school, Harmony Community School, will have a limited-term contract renewal go before the state board next month.

Documents obtained by the Enquirer show that the state evaluation conducted in October cited Oak Tree Montessori for not meeting some goals outlined in its original contract, such as percentage of students passing state tests.

The evaluation also questioned whether students were effectively using the Montessori teaching method, and noted that parents expressed concerns that the school did not have a full-time special education teacher.

Director Pauline Childs said she looks forward to going before the state board today.

"We're not perfect," she said. "That's why we do have an evaluation - so we can become better and better. Also, there are some things we have done quite well."

Some concerns in the evaluation have been corrected, she said. For example, the school now has a special education teacher and was only without one for about a week.

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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