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Ohio launches investigation into at least one Concept charter school
Former teachers allege test irregularities, racism and other issues

Andy Chow
Concept schools say on their Web site and in a statement that they're decidated to quality.
Courtesy of Concept schools
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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. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports.

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Sexual misconduct, racism, teacher intimidation, questionable testing policies -- and mishandling of complaints about those claims were among the allegations the teachers brought to the state board of education meeting.

The teachers were all former employees of the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School, a charter school managed by the Chicago-based Concept Schools. 

Fudged records?
Timothy Neary taught at the high school for two years. He says he witnessed a culture of racism and sexism — adding that the attendance reports didn’t seem right. 

“When I saw that we got a 97 percent attendance rate, I just would look over my class roster and be like, ‘I never had a full class almost every single day.’ 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. Many top school officials are of Turkish descent and, 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.

A climate of fear
Former teacher Kellie Kochensparger alleges that “it was very well known at the school that I worked for that if you complained you would not have a job.” 

She taught at the high school for three years, and says there are many more accounts of improper behavior at the Dayton charter high school, but many teachers won’t come forward—fearing retribution. 

“I believe that and there are even teachers who’ve left who are still too afraid to share their stories.” 

The state school board president, Debbie Terhar, says the board will move forward with an investigation. The FBI is already carrying out its own inquiry into Concept Schools, which has about 19 schools in Ohio. 

Trouble tracking reports
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. 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 received no response. 

Concept says safety and quality are its goals
Republican state Sen. 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 reporting allegations.  

“I think that’s obviously one of the things that has to be looked at here: 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 it ensuring a “safe” and “professional” school environment is its priority. The statement also says Concept Schools will continue to maintain the highest standards for students, faculty and themselves. 

Concepts 30 charter schools include 19 in Ohio:

1. Chicago Math and Science Academy (CMSA)

(773) 761-8960

2. Gateway Science Academy – St. Louis
(314) 261-4361

3. Gateway Science Academy – South
(314) 669-9000

4. Horizon Science Academy – Cincinnati
(513) 242-0099

5. Horizon Science Academy – Cleveland High School
(216) 432-3660

6. Horizon Science Academy – Cleveland Middle School
(216) 432-9940

7. Horizon Science Academy – Cleveland Elementary School
(216) 432-9576

8. Horizon Science Academy – Columbus High School
(614) 846-7616

9. Horizon Science Academy – Columbus Middle School
(614) 428-6564

10. Horizon Science Academy – Columbus Elementary School
(614) 475-4585

11. Horizon Science Academy – Dayton Elementary School
(937) 277-1177

12. Horizon Science Academy – Dayton High School
(937) 281-1480

13. Horizon Science Academy – Dayton Downtown
(937) 281-1980

14. Horizon Science Academy – Denison Middle School
(216) 739-9911

15. Horizon Science Academy – Denison Elementary School
(216) 661-8840

16. Horizon Science Academy – Lorain
(440) 282-4277

17. Horizon Science Academy – Springfield
(419) 535-0524

18. Horizon Science Academy – Toledo High School
(419) 474 -3350

19. Horizon Science Academy – Toledo Downtown
(419) 244-3333

20. Horizon Science Academy – Youngstown
(330) 782-3003

21. Horizon Science Academy – Belmont
(773) 237 2702

22. Horizon Science Academy – McKinley Park
(773) 247 8400

23. Indiana Math and Science Academy (IMSA) – West
(317) 298-0025

24. Indiana Math and Science Academy (IMSA) – North
(317) 259-7300

25. Indiana Math and Science Academy (IMSA) – South
(317) 780-1200

26. Michigan Math and Science Academy (MMSA)
(586) 920-2163

27. Milwaukee Math and Science Academy
(414) 263-6400

28. Noble Academy – Cleveland
(216) 486-8866

29. Noble Academy – Columbus
(614) 326-0687

30. Quest Charter Academy – Peoria
(309) 402-0030

Listener Comments:

Glad that these allegations have been unfounded. Now as a school and a community we can move on and keep fighting for the best interests for our children. Thank goodness that these stories that teacher quote on quote told were found to be point blank lies. I have been with Horizon Science Academy Dayton Downtown for four years now. Have nothing bad to say about this amazing school. The teachers have always been awesome always went beyond the call of duty. I am proud to be apart of this great school. Great school. Staff is friendly and caring people. You can tell hands down that they are there for the right reasons. One of the best schools in the area. The teacher's go above and beyond to ensure that each child is given the chance to succeed. They even tutor children who need extra help after school. They ensue relationships with the family and keep them involved in the child's education. This is a plus in my book. I love knowing that my child's teacher is only a phone call or an email away to answer any questions or concern that I may have. Even after hours they are there. Small class sizes, college prep classes, loads of diversity and culture involved in this school, all people from all backgrounds attend you don't have to worry about your child not fitting in. Tons of after school activities, family nights held at school. Hands down the best school I have ever dealt with. Love it and would recommend it to anyone. They do a whole lot with very little. I will always be grateful for all the support and help they provide my daughter and myself when she first started school she had a hard time adjusting they went above and beyond. 4 years later I am just as happy with this school as when we started. It's my choice to choose which school is best for my child and that school is HSADD. Hands down better than the local public school.

Posted by: Jennifer (East Dayton) on July 31, 2015 12:07PM
just wondering if conceptI Academy is affiliated with the gulenist? just applied for the llc in january of 2015 purchasing lamendola school for 19,000 aprox seven acres in huber heights ohio my daughter is concerned because her house is in back of the school.also the purchaser theresa darr wants to change the zoning to residential. a lot of bad stuff has come out about her on social media .any info you have would help thanks betty cramer

Posted by: betty cramer (dayton ohio) on June 9, 2015 11:06AM
I worked at Noble Academy and there were several questionable practices at the school. They brought in several Turkish teachers that could hardly speak English. They claim that they can't find Americans to teach math and computers, but that is not true. They are looking for an excuse to bring in Turkish teachers to find their cult leader, Fallujah Gulen. I saw two of these teachers sleeping on the job. (Some of us even have photographs!) I pointed this out to an administrator, and suddenly I found that my evaluations were low for OTES. Mr Hakan, the principal, watched me teach for a half-hour and concluded that I am not effective. Then he had his subordinate administrator write a similar evaluation. This company is not running our school with integrity, and they not here to help Americans learn STEM subjects,they are here to fund their cult, and our state government is allowing them to run our schools. I want to know what state officials are being bought?

Posted by: David Mowry (Noble Academy) on July 18, 2014 10:07AM
I worked for Indiana Math and Science Academy North and have witnessed similar situations. I was there 4 years and saw many teacher and student turnovers due to these things.

Posted by: Christy (Indiana) on July 16, 2014 11:07AM
I worked at Noble Academy Cleveland as admin assistant and enrolment coordinator for 6 years, I know this is so valid and true and can provide staff names and parent names that can testify the horror experienced

Posted by: Amy (Cleveland Ohio) on July 16, 2014 1:07AM
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