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OKC charter school's ills outlined by frustrated parents, teachers

by Tim Willert Modified: October 11, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: October 10, 2013

Enrollment at an Oklahoma City charter school being investigated for possible misconduct has plummeted from about 110 students to 30 since a popular principal was terminated last month, people close to the school said Thursday.

Current and former teachers and administrators, including the ex-principal, alleged a laundry list of ongoing deficiencies at Harper Academy, including a shortage of teachers, books and security officers, along with no computers and food being prepared by students.

Tamra Washington said she was fired by text message because she raised concerns about security and male leadership at Harper Academy, 1215 NE 34. Washington said she lost her job on the same day she released students early because of safety concerns and decided to cancel the next two days of school.

“I had been asking for more armed security and male teachers because of the population being served,” Washington said.

The investigation

The Oklahoma City school district is reviewing the financial and business records of Harper Academy, which serves high-risk students, including dropouts, pregnant teens and those with behavioral problems, including current and former gang members.

The school board could decide to shutter the school, whose contract will be terminated in June if not renewed.

A school staffer who requested anonymity said students have been “dropping out like flies” since Washington left.

Charter schools are independent public schools that are funded by the school district but have their own governing boards. Harper Academy has been in operation for about two months.

Melvin Perry, the school's chief operating officer, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Official's response

Harvey Bethany, the president of the school's board of directors, disputed claims made by the ex-principal and others, including former teacher Laya Ford.

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by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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