Oklahoma City School Board votes to close charter school

The Oklahoma City School Board voted 6-2 to close Marcus Garvey Leadership Charter School during a meeting that lasted into the night Tuesday.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Modified: May 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm •  Published: May 28, 2013

Hunt presented state testing numbers comparing Marcus Garvey to the other charter schools with similar demographics. Some numbers were similar, but others were drastically different.

For example, in 2011-12, no seventh-graders at Marcus Garvey passed the state math test, but 98 percent of students at KIPP passed the same exam.

On the reading test that year, about 29 percent of Marcus Garvey fifth-graders passed, compared with 56 percent of students from Western Village and 79 percent of KIPP children.

Kwame Mumina, an attorney speaking on behalf of Marcus Garvey, said the statistics weren't fair.

He contended that the district skewed the numbers to leave out students who nearly passed the state exams.

Second-grade teacher Derek Brown said his students always come to his classroom reading like second-graders ought to. Some come in two years behind, and even if they catch up a year or more, they're still behind.

But that doesn't mean what they accomplish doesn't count.

“According to the state standards, that's unacceptable,” said Brown, who has been teaching at Marcus Garvey since it opened 10 years ago. “But in my eyes, that's growth. That child is learning to read.”

Looking at the books

School officials don't follow state law when it comes to tracking and paying for school expenses, said Jean Bostwick, a controller in the district finance department.

The school district was paying for meals at the school, but the school was also receiving federal funds for those same meals.

Instead of using the federal funds to pay the school district back, the school kept the money. When district officials pointed out the problem, the school eventually paid it all back. But it didn't have all $92,000 on hand.

Board member Phil Horning said that points to misspending.

“It was spent on something else because they didn't have the money to pay us,” Horning said.

Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said officials didn't move to close the school right away because the end of 2012-13 school year was at hand.

“That kind of financial issue is large enough in my opinion to cause us to cancel our contract,” he said.

Springer also said Marcus Garvey leaders don't “have a clear understanding of how much money they have at any one time.”

Mumina, the Marcus Garvey attorney, said the errors weren't nefarious. “We made a mistake,” he said. “We made a management mistake.”



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