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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

Principal who hired felon placed on leave

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dr. Imelda Hunt, the principal of the Academy of Business and Technology charter school in Toledo, was put on leave yesterday as a result of The Blade's report that the school hired a teacher who had served time in prison for drug trafficking, theft, and forgery.

The principal was removed from the school with pay pending an investigation, said Dr. Cecil Poe, regional director for Charter School Administration Services, Inc., the Southfield, Mich.-based company that manages the school.

Dr. Poe said it was “premature” to say whether Dr. Hunt would be fired. He said she was promised a decision within a week. The principal's salary is $45,000, Dr. Poe said.

“That's the approach we felt is mandated at this time, and pending further investigation,” Dr. Poe said. “What took place was not necessarily in the best interests of the school.”

The Blade reported yesterday that the school hired Luther McKinstry III, 30, on Nov. 20 as a full-time teacher despite Dr. Hunt's awareness that he had a criminal record. She said he assured her his record had been cleared.

Dr. Hunt could not be reached for comment.

McKinstry was hired, at a rate of $25,000 a year, to be a physical education teacher and to fill in as substitute teacher.

Gladine Taylor, administrative director of the school, said McKinstry had not complied with the requirement that newly hired teachers be fingerprinted through the Toledo police department so that a check of their criminal record can be made, as required by state law. She said the fingerprints must be made within 15 days of starting the job.

McKinstry served six months in Ohio prisons in 1992 for a drug trafficking conviction in Sandusky County. And he was in prison from June, 1996, to June, 1998, for convictions of forgery and theft, according to records of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

He was sent home Thursday after a reporter inquired about his employment.

The Academy of Business and Technology, 1456 Woodland Ave., has 258 pupils in grades kindergarten through seventh. The school is in its second year and is one of 13 charter schools in Lucas County.

The school is based on entrepreneurialism, and all children are expected to participate in developing business plans.

Charter schools are public schools operated by nonprofit governing boards and overseen by a public authorizing agency. In this case, the school's governing board contracts with Charter School Administration Services to run the school.

The authorizing agency, the University of Toledo Charter Schools Council, will recommend that the school wait until background checks are done before letting a new teacher start, Mary Jo Waldock, the chairman of the council, said yesterday.

“We are concerned about what's happened recently and we are going to prepare recommendations addressing those concerns,” Ms. Waldock said.

The Blade on Thursday requested copies of McKinstry's application from Charter School Administration Services, but has not received them.

The company manages 14 schools in Michigan and one school in Cincinnati, in addition to the Toledo school.



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