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Published: Wednesday, 8/8/2007

Alliance Academy co-directors hired back because of a procedural issue

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The co-directors of the troubled Alliance Academy of Toledo charter school were given their jobs back yesterday, but their re-employment could be short-lived.

The charter school s new governing board fired Jerri Heer and Letha Ferguson Friday and removed four board members.

Yesterday, the board rescinded the termination because the two school leaders were not given contractually required due-process hearings in front of the new board, said Albin Bauer II, an attorney with the Toledo firm of Eastman & Smith Ltd. which is representing the school and its Columbus-based sponsor, Buckeye Community Hope Foundation.

We want to err on the side of graciousness, and we don t want to be ambiguous, board President Sherita Evans said regarding the hearing.

The board met in private for 1 hours yesterday, during which Mrs. Heer and Ms. Ferguson addressed the board.

Something we said must have had an effect, Ms. Ferguson said afterward.

The board then was expected to vote on the terminations after reconvening, but instead adjourned.

The inaction drew a sigh of frustration from about 20 teachers present at the meeting, and one parent chastised the board.

These kids want to know if they can go to this school or if they have to go to another, said Jewel Payne, mother of a ninth-grade student. It s not fair.

The first day of school is Aug. 21, but it was not clear if the school would reopen in time.

Ms. Evans said the board would meet again at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

The school was suspended last Thursday by its sponsor for academic and financial problems and because the previous board refused to replace its directors with a for-profit management company.

Patricia Hughes, director of the community school division for Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, said the suspension would be lifted if the new board hired a company that could help turn around the school in a year.

Buckeye Community Hope Foundation selected the three new board members for the school: Ms. Evans, Judy Stone, and Tyrone Sturdivant.

They are all also members of the governing board of Paul Laurence Dunbar Academy, a charter school at 331 14th St., operated by the for-profit Leona Group, of East Lansing, Mich.

Two board members, Richard Knapp and Frances Wexler, were retained on the board by the sponsor.

Alliance Academy has never in its seven-year history ranked above academic emergency the state s equivalent of an F and it is $264,000 in debt.

The school, which is in the former Macomber High School building on Monroe Street, enrolled up to 375 students in grades kindergarten through 12 last year.

The governing board also was scheduled yesterday to hear a proposal from two Leona Group executives for that firm to take over the school, but the presentation was not made.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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