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Published: Friday, 5/11/2001

3 give up their seats on board of statewide, online school

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Three members of the governing board of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Ohio's glitch-plagued virtual school, have resigned.

Two of the three members indicated they had differences with the management company that runs the statewide kindergarten through 12th grade school.

Donald Wihl, the chairman of the board, said the members resigned because the board's meetings took too much of their time.

He said the resignations won't end the school, which he said has 4,000 applications for its second year.

Board members Douglas Lumpkin, an administrator with the state attorney general's office in Columbus, and Harry Beale, a metallurgist and industrialist in Columbus, resigned on Wednesday, according to a statement from eCOT.

Board member Clyde Card, has turned in a letter of resignation, but the board chairman said Mr. Card has agreed to delay his departure until a special board meeting next week at which replacements can be appointed.

In his letter of resignation, Mr. Beale said he has spent so much time recently trying to correct eCOT's operation problems that his businesses have suffered.

He said yesterday that the concept of an online, Internet-based school is a good one.

“I don't wish to hurt the school. I think it's a fantastic idea. I think I have philosophical differences with the management company,” Mr. Beale said.

Mr. Card also indicated differences with Altair Learning Management LLC, which manages the school on a contract with the governing board.

He said he had been invited onto the board because he has experience as a former state employee with bidding large computer contracts.

“I just didn't really agree with the way the organization was going,” Mr. Card said, declining to elaborate. “I thought I could maybe help with some things because of my background, but that didn't really happen.”

He praised the concept but stressed that planning is important.

“It needs to be planned, and there needs to be some procedures and a concern for the education of the students,” said Mr. Card, who lives in the Columbus area.

The school's announcement said Mr. Lumpkin and Mr. Beale “found that the efforts needed to sustain a growing statewide school were too demanding on their schedules.”

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow provides online schooling to 2,517 students in grades kindergarten through 12 throughout Ohio, spokesman Brian Usher said yesterday. Set up as a charter school, its charter is issued by the Lucas County educational service center. But like all charter schools, it has its own five-member governing board.

In trying to establish the first statewide network of students and teachers connected only by telephone lines and computers, the school has suffered from start-up problems since it opened in September. Many students were delayed until well into the school year from getting the computer and telephone line installed in their homes.

In November, the former superintendent, Dr. Colletta Musick, was placed on leave, then left the school with a settlement of $124,233. The settlement included an agreement not to discuss details of her departure.

Concerns about the accuracy of its enrollment lists prompted eCOT to agree to an ongoing special audit of its enrollment by the state auditor.

Tom Baker, the superintendent of the Lucas County educational service center, said he was unaware of the resignations yesterday. He said he is confident the school will continue operations next year and said he has heard from many happy families of students.

But he said he will insist on changes in eCOT's contract this summer to require more communication with him and to require that working equipment is available to be installed before students may enroll.



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