Longtime Ivy Prep supporter: Closing charter high school is an ‘educational travesty’

A parent of two and a longtime education advocate, Jennifer Falk has been a vocal supporter of Ivy Preparatory Academy. However, she is dismayed at the way the charter school network decided to close its high schools. She is also concerned about what she considers a lack of transparency in the process and whether it violated state Sunshine laws.

In this piece, she explains her concerns: (You can read Ivy Prep’s statement on the closing — which impacts 90 students at two high school campuses — here.)

By Jennifer Falk

I’ve been an Ivy Prep supporter since day one. But no more. At least not with the current governing board and leadership in place.

I have watched Ivy Prep weather many storms, some nearly fatal. But none of those wounds were self-inflicted by the adults entrusted in governing the school.

Third grade boys walk in the hallway of Ivy Prep at Kirkwood. The charter school network is closing its high schools to concentrate on its elementary and middle school campuses. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Third graders walk in the hallway of Ivy Prep at Kirkwood. The charter school network is closing its high schools. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Parents of high school students at Ivy Prep were blindsided last week by an abrupt announcement from the Ivy Prep Governing Board that their schools were closing.

I was certainly not prepared for what I would learn as I attended an information session to understand why they were closing their high school less than a few months after their inaugural graduation. A graduation in which each of the 10 scholars enrolled in college supported by $150,000 in total scholarships.

 What I unearthed during this session and over the next few days can only be described as an educational travesty.

The first step in this strategically well-thought out plan led school officials to pull students out of class and tell them that they had to find another school to attend in 30 days. In an email that went home later that day, parents were informed of the closure and told that a parent meeting would be held to explain why it was in the best interest to dismantle the high school program mid-semester.

Concerned parents went to the school to demand answers but what they got instead were withdrawal papers. Teachers were directed to stop teaching for fear that the girls may want to remain in Ivy classrooms until the bitter end of October. Subsequent parent meetings between parent and school officials ended in screaming school leaders and crying parents.

A First Amendment award-winning citizen journalist was denied the opportunity to film this dysfunction.

But here’s the scary part.

Earlier in the week the Ivy Prep board voted on a recommendation brought forward by the organization’s new executive director, former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan. This board vote was cast in a meeting without a posted agenda, and the vote to close the Ivy Prep high school in Gwinnett was done virtually and far out of the public eye.

Parents who complained to the state Charter Schools Commission were not given much hope, and told the Ivy Prep board was within its rights. The only answer parents have received so far is that school leaders were within their rights to engineer conditions and student data to support their decision to close high school because the new leader couldn’t “figure out” how to work through the challenges.

And the charter school board was within their rights to make decisions in the dark about how to use tax dollars and cheat kids out of their education. This material change to the current charter must be approved by the state commission, which had already given Ivy Prep leadership a wink and a nod to begin the shutdown.

The state Charter Schools Commission meets at the end of the month, and will vote on the charter amendment at that time.  Unfortunately, most of the high school students will be gone by the time the vote comes.

The Ivy Prep high school is hemorrhaging students every day because that’s the desired outcome. The focus of the school leadership is to amend the charter contract so the Ivy leaders can lower the bar and not be required to meet the rigorous demands set forth during their negotiations.

Tell me, do you think school leaders would be pushing students out if they had an inkling that the state commission was going to require them to live up to the existing contract?

Sounds like business as usual to me, not education reform.

Here’s something for the State Charter Schools Commission to consider. Don’t amend the charter. You’d be wiser to send the community a strong message: Tell the students they have a choice – they can return to Ivy Prep if they wish. Tell the school leadership they have a choice — resign or to find the talent to meet the demands of the charter contract agreement.

Reader Comments 0

97 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Why are the salaries and vendor payments for IVY Prep hidden from tax payers? Real public schools are required to post this yearly. State Charters are not accountable to the public.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian All state charter schools submit approved budgets to the State Board of Education (via the Georgia Department of Education) no later than June 30 annually, just like any other public school district. They also submit an annual audit by the end of the first quarter of the fiscal year, just like any other public school district.


Real critics post correct information, and not hidden from readers under fake names.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@DrMonicaHenson @AvgGeorgian


Reporting to an agency is not reporting to the public.


Real Public Schools report salary and travel data as well as vendor payments.


Your school, Provost, fails CCRPI each year and posts no salary, travel, or vendor payments online. 


State charter schools seem  more like private(data) schools paid for with public money.


DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian @DrMonicaHenson Your understanding of "public reporting" is simply incorrect. Reporting to a State agency is the requirement of any public school system, district or charter. Your claimed understanding of public charter schools is not even close to factual.

eulb
eulb

According to Ivy Prep's statement (link near the top of the article), Ivy Prep's high schools are “financially unfeasible" so they must close right away.  But it also says “No one will be fired.”

How is that possible?

Will Ivy Prep really continue paying administrators, faculty and staff for the full academic year? 

 

If so, why must the students leave? How is it "financially unfeasible" for  to teach a mere 90 students with those resources in place?


I don't get it. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

It is more difficult to build than to destroy.  Let us be builders of public education, not destroyers of it.

newsphile
newsphile

Maureen,  please post answers to these questions.  Thanks. 


Aren't charter schools funded for the entire school year?  What happens to the funds for the remainder of this year?  Is this another loop hole where management gets to keep the money allocated for the entire school term, while closing the school this month? 

Cherokee Charter just made out like a bandit by padding projected enrollment figures.  They got dollars for these non-existent students while the county school district actually got the students.  This is only one of the huge problems with our state's Charter Commission, and it's about to get much, much worse imo.


popcornular
popcornular

@newsphile

Maureen is now your personal Google? Are you a teacher handing out an assignment to Maureen? Write 100 times on the board, 'I am an adult. I can find answers to anything on the internet'. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Dr. Henson says " Once again: there is no such thing as a for-profit charter school. Charter schools are public schools". 


Could she please post the links to Provost Academy's list of Dr. Henson's and other Provost employee's salaries as well as the vendor payments. 


As you may know, Provost is a perennial failing State Commissioned Charter School, but Dr. Henson's salary shows up NOWHERE, unlike PUBLIC SCHOOL employees. 


 If Provost is a failing school every year and has not been shut down, who IS making the money from it?

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian To address your insinuation made under the cloak of your alias, the salaries of the employees of the school, including mine, are comparable on the low side of what employees earn in any small single-high school district in Georgia.

southerntchr
southerntchr

@AvgGeorgian I worked there; her salary was 100,000 at inception and all expenses paid for travel, meals, phone, etc.  She fires, hires, bullies, lays off because "they" can't pay, then rehires, threatens, fires, blah, blah, but she hasn't suffered.  I have never witnessed such turnover, not even in fast food!  The latest is all employees had to take 10% paycut.  They don't want to pay anybody anything.  So...where's the money??

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

I am not defending the school's process. The budget process for charters begins in the early Spring. I would find it difficult to believe that the board was not well aware of its shaky ground last March. I am sad that the decision was made mid year, without notice.

My point is that a charter (and public school) must be sustainable, and if it isn't, then it does no good throwing tax payer dollars down the drain. It is wise to expeditiously close ...Now, to me, the most expeditious would have been at the end of last year; however, we have not been apprised of any extenuating circumstances (such as Dr. Henson mentioned) that might have been a nail in the coffin and caused the sudden closure.

On another note - please stop bringing up the few cases of charter school malfeasance that has occurred on occasion IN OTHER STAReS. We had a DeKalb county official indicted for outright theft. Dishonest can occur in ANY sector. Good governance and oversight will limit this occurring.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@CharterStarter_Too


DeKalb has a local government elected by the citizens of DeKalb. State charter schools take local tax money from all citizens without local representation.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@CharterStarter_Too

On another note - please stop bringing up the few cases of charter school malfeasance that has occurred on occasion IN OTHER STAReS.”

Hmm, do we not know “few” means “a small number · a handful · one or two · a couple · two or three · not many · hardly any?”  And can one not google “charter school malfeasance” to discover the many such cases going in many states?

As to what “many” means… “a large number of.”

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian @CharterStarter_Too State charter schools do not receive local tax dollars. Please read your Georgia history as to the unconstitutionality found by the State Supreme Court with regard to the first iteration of the State Charter Schools Commission. 


Posting deliberate misinformation doesn't help your cause.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@CharterStarter_Too


You say a few cases of charter malfeasance but there have been many and the cost of charter school fraud is going to be somewhere close to $1.4 billion for 2015. Hardly a number to be sneezed at


http://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Charter-Schools-National-Report_rev2.pdf


Also, there are many instances of fraud from all over the country. Here is a report on a few to show how widespread and insidious it really is.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/despite-big-problems-char_b_8225840.html



Point
Point

@DrMonicaHenson But in the last few years, the state has cut more than 25% of the funds they previously sent back to taxpayers locally for schools and county services for their communities while  diverting avenues for  revenue available for  local government back to the state.  If this group is told that what they are doing is unconstitutional they just change the constitution.  May be the law, but that doesn't make it right.  

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Point @DrMonicaHenson


Thank you Point. That is my argument. The State plays shell games with the money as you stated and also the $18 extra tax dollars per family paid for the private school "tax credit" scholarships for for wealthy families.


Dr. Henson-so we may evaluate the effectiveness of our tax dollars spent on your school, kindly direct us to the salaries and vendor payments  for Provost. Your school fails CCRPI each year but is not accountable to the tax payers as are traditional public schools - is Provost a public school or not? Why is your salary a secret?

Point
Point

@DrMonicaHenson @AvgGeorgian @CharterStarter_Too  Dr. Henson, the state will keep the state income tax I pay and send it to state charter schools rather than send it back to local communities as they have drastically cut the funds sent back to counties.  Every tax payer in the state will be funding state charter schools.


I have researched charters in other states.  The script goes like this...oh charters cost less because they don't get the local supplement, then in a couple of years they give them local dollars and find a way for them to receive money for facilities.  Operating dual systems is more expensive and the taxpayers are funding it.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@CharterStarter_Too

Why do charters hide their financial data from the public? Take Provost as an example - this charter school fails CCRPI every year, costs the taxpayers extra money but salaries and vendoe payments are hidden from the public.


Should not charter schools be as transparent about public taxpayer monies as are the real public schools/?


Are charter schools really publicly funded private schools since their financial data is private?

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Point @DrMonicaHenson Again, this is the purview of the State. Local communities are not automatically entitled to those funds. 


"This group" did not change the state constitution. More than 60% of the voters in the referendum did. That's taxpayer decision making.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian @Point @DrMonicaHenson There is no secrecy. The public charter school's name is Graduation Achievement Charter High School, and I have posted earlier in the blog comments that anyone can request our financials anytime via the Open Records Act, just as you can request the financials of any other public school system. Simply send an email to me at Monica.Henson@gradgeorgia.com. Walk into our headquarters at 100 Edgewood Avenue, NE, Suite 915, Atlanta, 30303 and request them in person. Or request them from the State Charter Schools Commission, the Georgia Department of Education, or the State Board of Education. 


Kindly direct us to your real identity, AvgGeorgian, so we may all evaluate the content of the misinformation you post publicly. 



DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian @CharterStarter_Too For the third time: all of the information you claim to be unable to see is available at any time via the Open Records Act. Submit the request via email to the schools, the State Charter Schools Commission, the Georgia Department of Education, and/or the State Board of Education. 


No public school's financial data is private, regardless of whether the school is part of a traditional district or a charter school--state, district, startup, or conversion.


For someone who is so concerned about sunshine, full disclosure, and public information, why do you hide behind an alias and publish misinformation?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@DrMonicaHenson @AvgGeorgian @Point


Citizens do not have to identify themselves to state entities or use the Open Records Act to get financial data from Real Public Schools. 


Are you saying that name taking and evaluation of citizens who might request financial information from your school is part of your job?



Point
Point

@DrMonicaHenson @Point  So let's talk the large amounts of out of state money spent in our state to promote the constitutional change.  The largest donor was a member of the Walton-Walmart  family if I recall correctly. Personally, I boycott Walmart because I think they caused the demise of local small businesses,loss of American jobs and an empty Walmart store in many communities.  I really don't want to see what a Walmart education would look like.


As a citizen of Georgia and a taxpayer, I would like a constitutional ban on campaign donations from corporations and individuals who do not reside in our state.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian @DrMonicaHenson @Point Not at all. I am pointing out that you are using the cover of secrecy to promote deliberate misinformation and attempting to joust from behind an alias while, ironically, proclaiming yourself to be a champion of transparency. I am stating that it is the refuge of the coward to hide behind a pen name. 

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Point @DrMonicaHenson It is your right as a citizen to work for change. Out-of-state money is spent on every single statewide campaign, and many local campaigns, in every state of the Union. The fact that out-of-state money is spent, or not spent, on a campaign does not invalidate the vote that the majority cast. There was a clear preference for the constitutional amendment, more than 60%.

Intteach
Intteach

If you knew how pitiful of a high school it was in the first place you would be grateful that it is closing. No choice for students because they could not afford to hire teachers, horrendous working conditions for the few teachers that actually were hired, unheard of circumstance. Wise decision to finally really close it. Should not have opened in the first place.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Wow.     If Ms. Falk's assertions are proven true, this could spell big trouble for Ivy Prep.   They would be wise to get a crisis management team in place because they will need to respond to these allegations in the proper forum.  I have  not met Jen Falk, but I know she is a big charter school supporter.


Again, if these alleged allegations are true, then I am shocked at the way they handled this situation, especially with the children.   Seriously?   I would hope that is not how Alisha Morgan leads, because this will destroy her political career if proven true.   The question is, "will the public ever really know the full story at what led to this abrupt decision to shut down the high school?"   And it would seem that the info about the charter amendment needs fleshing out so that we know exactly what they did and whether they stand a chance at getting the amendment approved the the state charter commission.


My final point is this.    Why would Ms. Falk use this forum to whistleblow such a serious allegation unless she had hard evidence supporting such allegations?    Nothing against @MaureenDowney one iota.  But this is serious business.   If this is how Alisha Morgan leads, then this blogger may never support Morgan politically ever again.   Reformers still need to have integrity and values and clearly Ms. Morgan was not experienced in managing such issues.   


But lets see what facts come out on this before making final judgment.  I'm not liking what I'm reading at this point.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@EdJohnson @living-in-outdated-ed lets not draw conclusions.    We don't know the whole story.   Morgan is a new head of the school and we don't know the facts about what was going on with their finances or their board governance.  You're making a leap that is not supportable at this point.   I beg you not to follow the practices of Diane Ravitch's cronies who see one situation and generalize it to an entire organization.   


Lets see the full story first.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@living-in-outdated-ed

"I would hope that is not how Alisha Morgan leads[.]"


Do you realize that Morgan is a recent graduate of Eli Broad's Superintendents Academy? And that Eli Broad tends to attract narcissistic types?  And that Eli Broad's unaccredited academy training is less about children and more about profiting from investments made in privatizing public schools?

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@living-in-outdated-ed @EdJohnson Living is right. Alisha Morgan is a principled, ethical leader brought in to deal with a situation that would be challenging to anyone. Making snap judgments based on extremely few details that are not substantiated would be inappropriate and extreme.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@EdJohnson @DrMonicaHenson Ed, the anecdotal fallacy does not prove that every graduate of a particular program does or does not do what Byrd-Bennett did. And that was in a traditional public school district. By your logic, every district superintendent is a crook? Or only district superintendents that graduate from Broad? 

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@DrMonicaHenson

Snap judgments?”  Ha!  Elisha Thomas Morgan made it official by recently becoming a Broadie.  She has finally come out to be in the fast company of such “principled” folk like Barbara Byrd Bennett, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, who now “will plead guilty to charges in an indictment released Thursday that alleges she steered more than $23 million in no-bid contracts from CPS to her former employer, authorities said Thursday.”

anothercomment
anothercomment

look at what messes Big Bev left and let's not forget Robert Avossa has also destroyed Fulton county. Those in North Fulton just don't have the diversity to see the full effects yet,

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@DrMonicaHenson @EdJohnson


Yes, but we do know that graduates from the unaccredited Broad Superintendent Academy are trained to tear down our public schools through privatization and charter schools. You only have to look at a few of those to know; Arne Duncan, who just awarded Ohio, a state who is ridden with charter corruption and fraud because the legislature setup a system with little accountability and transparency, a grant to expand the charters.. Then there is John Deasy, who spent millions of taxpayer dollars for defunct ipads that cost way more than retail. Then there's John White, Mike Miles, William Hite, Chris Cerf, John King just to name a few. All have a record of pushing for tearing down, not building up public education.Then there's Mr. Broad himself who is, at the moment, formulating a plan to privatize half of Los Angeles schools. 

redweather
redweather

@DrMonicaHenson @AvgGeorgian @living-in-outdated-ed @EdJohnson You can find the salary of every "government" school teacher, administrator, etc. by simply visiting the Georgia Department of Audits' website.  There are 1485 pages of information detailing salary and travel reimbursement. No Open Records Act request required.  

Point
Point

@anothercomment And who can forget Heatley in Clayton County?  Oddly enough (nod nod wink wink) he also works for SUPES Academy that was awarded the no bid contract in Chicago.


It's so sad these people are holding something shiny in front of people while pseudo educators are robbing us blind and laughing all the way to the bank.


If it was truly about the children and not lining the pockets of legislators and businesses, APS would be hiring the Boston Consulting GRoup that has wreaked havoc on every district they have been involved in.  They could ride over to the Ron Clark Academy and get some pointers.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@AvgGeorgian @DrMonicaHenson @living-in-outdated-ed @EdJohnson Real experts post actual facts. Cowards and fools post balderdash behind the cover of aliases because they don't have the guts to take the heat for it. 


The Open Records Act ensures transparency and the availability of every piece of information you continue to squall about. I have yet to receive a request from you, and I have provided you with my school email address three times in the comments on this blog post.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Point @DrMonicaHenson @AvgGeorgian @living-in-outdated-ed @EdJohnson To be clear, I have not characterized anyone as a coward or a fool other than @AvgGeorgian. Regardless, anyone with such strong opinions for or against an issue ought to be comfortable with full transparency, no? I am also a Georgia taxpayer, by the way, and any information you wish to see that has been discussed here is fully available via the Open Records Act. Send me an email request.