Wednesday, September 3, 2003

K-6 charter school back after hiatus

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MOUNT AUBURN - Lawsuits and wrangling between board members and management company officials could not stop the resurrection of a Mount Auburn charter school Tuesday.

Parents of nearly 600 students applied to the K-6 school, and hundreds of kids showed up for the first day of classes less than a year after legal battles forced the school to close.

Joy Maria N'Daou, the school's director, said attendance was close to the number enrolled.

"I was amazed," she said. "The bottom line is, we're pleased to offer the program again because there was a real desire to keep the program running here in Cincinnati."

The school, International College Preparatory Academy, is tuition-free and publicly funded. It reopened this year at 244 Southern Ave. under a new board but under the same for-profit management company as its predecessor, Sabis International School.

Charter schools such as International College Preparatory Academy first opened in Ohio in 1998 as alternatives to traditional public schools.

In 2001, the school's former board sued to have the school closed. The board said the management company that was hired to operate the school was too concerned with profit, leaving insufficient funds for operation.

The management company, which disputed that claim, had hired the staff and provided the curriculum. The board also raised concerns that a subsidiary of the management company owned the school building and charged excessive rent - $1 million annually.

The board later fired the management company and reopened the school under new management in the same building.

After several lawsuits between the company and the board, enrollment dwindled by last September to fewer than 50 students from 660.

Many parents said they preferred operation under the management company, Minnesota-based Sabis Educational Systems Inc., which runs 27 private and charter schools across the nation and internationally.

A court ruling in September forced the former board to close the revamped school, which by that time was no longer affiliated with Sabis Educational Systems.


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