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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

Union assails charter school owner


COLUMBUS - A state teachers' union released a lengthy report yesterday accusing the largest operator of charter schools in Ohio of violating state law and operating simply to make a profit.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers, in an 82-page report, said White Hat Management - which has 33 schools serving approximately 16,000 students in Ohio, including the Life Skills Center in Toledo - operates schools that are neither independent nor nonprofit entities.

Tom Mooney, president of the union, said Ohio law requires charter schools to be nonprofit entities governed by independent school boards.

A spokesman for Akron-based White Hat did not return telephone calls from The Blade yesterday.

The report, which was released at a news conference in Columbus, said the schools are a "cash cow" for White Hat, and that owner David Brennan used some school buildings as collateral to secure a $5 million loan. The purpose of the loan was not disclosed in the report.

The report also said the same nine people constitute the boards of eight White Hat-operated schools; numerous trustees serve on multiple boards, and some trustees are on as many as 17 White Hat charter school boards.

The report says Mr. Brennan "has gained undue influence of sponsors that grant - and renew - his schools' charters."

Most White Hat schools are sponsored by the Toledo-based Ohio Council for Community Schools, originally an arm of the University of Toledo. UT was granted chartering authority in the original 1997 legislation that created a pilot charter school program in Lucas County.

The council's executive director is Allison Perz, whose mother, Sally Perz, sponsored the original charter school legislation as a state representative. The elder Ms. Perz works for the council of community schools as a regional representative and also is a registered lobbyist for White Hat.

In a previous interview with The Blade, the elder Ms. Perz said she does not believe she has a conflict of interest, as Mr. Mooney suggested yesterday.

Sally Perz could not be reached for comment last night.

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