Ball State pulls sponsorship of two Gary charter schools

2013-01-22T19:00:00Z 2013-01-31T18:31:09Z Ball State pulls sponsorship of two Gary charter schoolsCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

MUNCIE | Ball State University has pulled its sponsorship of seven Indiana charter schools — including two in Gary — plagued by long-running academic woes.

Charter School of the Dunes and LEAD College Preparatory Charter School were among those that had their charters revoked by Ball State. The Gary schools are scheduled to close June 30.

In addition to those two local charter schools, officials at West Gary Lighthouse Charter School withdrew that school's application for renewal. It is scheduled to close in June as it currently exists under a consolidation plan with other Lighthouse charter schools.

Gary Lighthouse Charter School and East Chicago Lighthouse Charter School each received a three-year renewal with performance conditions.

Charter schools are public schools, allowing all parents — regardless of salary, race or zip code — to send their children to the school of their choice. In addition to allowing more entities such as the newly established Indiana Charter School Board to sponsor charter schools throughout Indiana, lawmakers last year also increased the level of accountability for public charter schools.

Bob Marra, Office of Charter School executive director, said in a statement Tuesday that an extensive review of 20 of the charter schools Ball State sponsors showed "current success or progress isn't sufficient" at seven schools. The university's contract with all seven of the schools ends June 30.

Danielle Sleight, president of the board of directors for Charter School of the Dunes, said her school will appeal the decision.

"We will file that appeal this week," Sleight said Tuesday. "We're appealing based on the fact that we don't feel we should be closed. I don't want to go into all of the details right now."

The decision comes just months before Charter School of the Dunes completes a new $13 million school building at the intersection of U.S. 20 and Old Hobart Road.

The renewal review process allows for the schools to request reconsideration of the university's decision. Schools must request reconsideration within 10 business days.

For those making such a request, a hearing will be held with the Ball State University Charter Schools Hearing Panel. The panel will submit a recommendation to the president of the university in early March, and the president's decision, based on the panel's recommendation, is final.

Michael Suggs, LEAD College Prep board president, said his school also plans to appeal the decision.

"It's a big disappointment," Suggs said. "We have been in a transition from being associated with KIPP. It wasn't a successful model for us. I feel really good about our relationship now with American Quality Schools and the leadership of our new principal, who is a seasoned veteran in charter school education."

Meanwhile, Charles Salter, the regional vice president and superintendent of the Lighthouse Charter Schools in Northwest Indiana, said his group intends to restructure the Lighthouse Academies in Northwest Indiana. However, nothing has been submitted or approved by Ball State, he said.

Salter said Lighthouse hopes to create a middle/high school in Gary that could accommodate students in grades seven or eight to 12th grade.

The group plans to bring students from Gary Lighthouse Charter School, East Chicago Lighthouse Charter School and West Gary Lighthouse Charter to a Gary middle/high school building serving about 700 students, Salter said.

That would allow Lighthouse Academies to offer a more complete college preparatory program in terms of class offerings, extracurricular activities and athletic programs, Salter said. Students in kindergarten through sixth or seventh grade could be housed in two elementary buildings, he said.

"If we were not able to do that, we would find them suitable places elsewhere, but our goal is to house them within the Lighthouse Academies," Salter said.

He said his group would like to open the consolidated middle/high school in the fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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