On June 27, 2019, Cincinnati City Schools penned a letter to parents of Southwest Ohio Preparatory School (SWOP), a charter within Cincinnati’s district boundaries. The letter stated, in part, “Southwest Ohio Preparatory School has announced the school will not reopen next school year. But there’s no need to worry because we have a seat waiting for your child at your neighborhood school.”
The problem was the charter school was not closing – the letter was a false claim.Southwest Ohio Prep Letter
The Ohio Star asked Dan Minnich, Executive Director of Communications and Outreach at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) about the letter, the process for public notification when a school is closing and whether the school had been mistakenly added to the “Closure List” (FY19 Community School Designation Comprehensive List).
Minnich responded, “…the Ohio Department of Education exercises its oversight authority through sponsors of community schools in the state. The Department was not aware of a letter sent by Cincinnati Public Schools to parents enrolled in Southwest Ohio Preparatory Academy, nor did the sponsor of the community school send the Department any notification that the school was suspended, on probation, or in a position where the school would not re-open for the 2019-2020 school year. And lastly, the Department has not placed Southwest Ohio Preparatory Academy on a closure list.”
A call was made to the sponsor’s representative, Dave Cash, President of Charter School Specialists. The sponsor is St. Aloysius Orphanage. Cash told The Ohio Star, “There is an official notification that is published by ODE when a school is closing.”
He continued, “Cincinnati has the responsibility to confirm hearsay about a school closing. They have multiple formal channels including the Ohio Department of Education’s Community School Office, ODE’s Area Coordinators or even the school’s Sponsor to confirm whether a school is closing. It should never be the process to send out letters to parents based upon a phone call from an unofficial source. These mistakes by districts are harmful to students, parents and to schools, and waste valuable state resources.”
Frances Russ, Communications Officer for Cincinnati Public Schools, emailed the following statement to The Ohio Star,
As a public school district, our primary obligation to the students and their families living in the Cincinnati school district is to ensure they are attending school, as required by law. Cincinnati Public Schools was notified by a Southwest Ohio Preparatory School administrator about the closing of the charter school. Upon receiving the notification, a letter from CPS was then sent to the charter school parents. When we are notified of a school closing, we act immediately to make the transition as simple as possible for students and families and minimize the loss of instruction. This is the process we follow upon the notification of any school closing within our school district boundaries.”
There is no formal process that allows a school employee or any other individual to directly notify a district about a charter shutting down. “Cincinnati did not confirm that the school was closing through any appropriate channels. Because it didn’t confirm, it’s had a potential destructive effect on the school,” Cash noted.
The Education Empowerment Group which operates SWOP confirmed the school lost 50 students. At approximately $7,500 per child based upon fiscal year 2018, that’s a loss of close to $375,000. Cincinnati City spends nearly double on their students, over $13,900 per child.
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