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Published: Wednesday, 12/21/2005

Toledo academy to buy land for charter school

The Toledo Academy of Learning's governing board has agreed to buy property for a new site for its charter school, one of the city's largest, and to appeal a decision last week by its sponsor to end its contract.

After meeting in executive session, the school's governing board agreed unanimously Monday to pursue buying property at Byrne Road and Hill Avenue. The school, now at 301 Collingwood Blvd., has just under 400 students.

Margie Blackmon, school director, said it has no contract or other written document for the planned purchase of property at Byrne Road and Hill Avenue and refused to provide any further details about the property.

Marcus Guynn, president of the school's governing board, also declined to say exactly where the property is or what the price might be.

Included in the board's vote, however, was a direction to the school administration or attorney to seek a special-use permit from the city of Toledo. Such a permit would be necessary in situations where a property is not zoned for an intended use.

The board also voted to appeal a decision by its sponsor, the Lucas County Educational Service Center, not to renew the school's contract, effective June 30.

The Toledo Academy of Learning was among three charter schools in Toledo and a dozen total statewide whose contracts with the county ESC were not renewed.

Jim George, director of the county service center's community school division, said the 12 have chronic academic problems, and some have financial problems. Toledo Academy of Learning did not meet any state standards except for attendance during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 school years.

If any of the 12 schools can't secure a new sponsor agency, they would not be allowed to continue operating. The service center is dropping contracts to comply with a state law that will prohibit it from overseeing more than 75 schools.

Mr. George said deciding not to renew the 12 charter school contracts is a step toward meeting that requirement but stressed that the recommendation involving these dozen schools was made because of problems at those schools.

Mr. Guynn said the school is exercising its right to appeal to the service center and has not sought out a different sponsor in the event the appeal is unsuccessful. "We have a sponsor," he said. "I don't want to deal in any negative hypotheticals."

Asked if he was concerned about buying property for a new building just after its authorizing agency voted to not renew the school's sponsorship, Mr. Guynn replied: "There are risks in running any business."

The meeting Monday was held to redo action undertaken at a special meeting Dec. 12 that violated notification provisions contained in the Ohio Public Meetings Act. Ohio law requires advance notice of any special meeting at least 24 hours to any media that have requested such notification. The school notified The Blade just hours before the 6 p.m. meeting.



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