Reynoldsburg board takes over operations of online charter school
The Reynoldsburg Board of Education voted last week to take over operations of a charter school it placed on probation last year.
As sponsor of the Virtual Community School of Ohio, the district has the authority to shut down the school or take over its operations by replacing its governing board.
School board members exercised that authority at their May 21 meeting, voting 3-1 to remove the current VCSOhio governing board and replace it with five new members.
VCSOhio is an online charter school serving 1,300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade,
"As sponsor of the school, it is our responsibility to make sure it operates efficiently," Superintendent Steve Dackin said. "We threatened to suspend operations of the school last June and VCS responded with a list of assurances. We placed it on probation instead, but they have not followed up on those assurances."
He said the new governing board members "have the experience and the expertise to get this school back on track."
The new governing board includes former Reynoldsburg school board members Mary Burcham and Jim Slonaker and former district administrator Charles Parsons. Other new board members are Daryl Albrecht and Jeremy Grayem.
The former VCSOhio governing board included Marian Bell, Linda Lavender, Cooke Metzger and Charles Wilcoxen, along with Superintendent Ron Thornton.
Dackin said he did not recommend suspending operations of the online school.
"We do not want to displace 1,300 kids by ending operations of the school," he said. "The new board will be held accountable for correcting the problems of the school."
The charter school was placed on probation in July 2012 for failing to pay bills on time, facing an $800,000 deficit and for a possible violation of Ohio's ethics laws, after former VCS Superintendent James McCord hired his wife, brother and son to fill positions.
Dackin said the charter school's academic performance has "significantly declined" since last year, as evidenced by its performance on the last state report card released by the Ohio Department of Education. The school received a D on the report card, after two years of receiving a C grade.
He said VCSOhio is expected to face another significant budget deficit at the end of the fiscal year. It also failed to renegotiate its long-term contract with eSchool Consultants Inc., another provision of the probation. The school was required to renegotiate the contract to put it on an annual basis in case finances worsened. VCSOhio pays almost half its budget to eSchool Consultants.
The only Reynoldsburg school board member who voted against the takeover of the online charter school was Ryan Brzezinski, who said the issue should not have been added to the agenda just before the Reynoldsburg Board of Education meeting.
"Why didn't we see this before?" he asked. "I would like to have known about this item before tonight. I am not comfortable with one of the new board members."
Brzezinski did not say who that new board member was.
Dackin said he has every confidence in the new board members.
"There are good staff members at the school and I think they will find all the resources they need to help the school improve," he said.