Oklahoma charter school faces Epic fight

Epic 1 on 1 has been using the logo, school colors and name of the University of Central Oklahoma as the sponsor of the virtual charter school; however, the university denies having an approved contract with the unique school.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: August 15, 2010
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Epic 1 on 1 Charter School will be the first of its kind in Oklahoma if the startup school wins a lawsuit Monday forcing the state Education Department to fund the 400 students that have enrolled in the school to date.

Epic is a nonprofit group founded by Ben Harris, the former president of Advanced Academics, a Bricktown-based online education company.

Harris' school would be unique in not being associated with a particular school district, but rather being a public school, privately operated and funded with state dollars. Students from anywhere in the state could transfer to the free school and take classes online.

The holdup, however, is whether or not Epic has a sponsoring entity and can force the Education Department to provide funding.

The University of Central Oklahoma publicly stated last week that it did not have an approved contract in place with Epic.

Epic 1 on 1 Charter School responded with a letter from attorney Brad Clark stating his "client is troubled by and disappointed with" the university's statement that ran in The Oklahoman on Tuesday.

The letter points to a contract signed by Steve Kreidler, executive vice president of UCO, and initialed by the university's legal counsel, as proof the university agreed to charter the school.

The contract reads as an "agreement between the University of Central Oklahoma ... in its capacity as sponsoring entity pursuant to the Oklahoma Charter School Act ... and Community Strategies Inc. for the operation of Epic 1 on 1 Charter School."

UCO hasn't changed its statement.

The dispute could be crucial Monday when Epic goes to court against the state.

Harris has supplied the court with a five-year charter school contract signed by UCO's second in command and a letter assuring Harris that Kreidler has the authority to sign contracts on behalf of the school.

However, according to documents acquired by The Oklahoman through an open records request, UCO has a clear policy in place regarding how charter school applications are to be handled.

"The President shall recommend action to the Regents of the Regional Universities System of Oklahoma (RUSO)," reads the policy on charter school sponsorship. "RUSO shall either accept or reject sponsorship of a proposed charter school."

RUSO has neither approved nor denied Epic's application.

The children of Epic

While none of the parties involved in the lawsuit are talking publicly, the parents of children set to enroll in Epic in September have plenty to say.

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