During the last several months, Ohio newspapers have published a number of articles detailing chronic problems with the state’s charter schools. In particular, the Akron Beacon Journal and Dayton Daily News have performed stellar reporting as they informed their readers about issues related to problems associated with a chain of schools operated by Turkish immigrants that have ties to a controversial exiled Islamic cleric named Fethullah Gulen.

The Beacon Journal informed its readers that a number of the board members of the Chicago-based Gulen charter school chain officially called Concept Schools aren’t American citizens and that State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, a leading candidate to become the next Ohio Speaker of the House, accepted an all-expenses paid junket to Turkey offered by the Niagara Foundation, part of the Gulen network. Rosenberger has not responded to the Beacon Journal’s request for comment about his trip.

In July, the Dayton Daily News covered the controversy surrounding the Gulen schools, which do business in Ohio under the name of Horizon Science Academy and Noble Academy. What is now being described as Chartergate took yet another turn when a group of four former staff members of the Dayton school testified before the State Board of Education of their knowledge of “test cheating, attendance tampering, sexual misconduct and other misdeeds,” as one account summarized their testimony. TheDayton Daily News also delivered solid reporting in the follow-up of the state board meeting, covering other aspects of the story, including allegations by a former student and a parent regarding misrepresentation of attendance and test score results.

Then there’s the Columbus Dispatch.

Unlike its title, “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper” did not perform the role of homeboy, offering only minimalist coverage of a story that has national implications, including FBI raids at Gulen schools in Cleveland and Columbus, another raid at the Gulenist Concept Schools headquarters in suburban Chicago, and controversy about the schools in Indiana, Louisiana and Texas. After two small stories and a bland editorial calling for more state oversight, the Dispatch has been missing in action on the tale of how an imam set up a chain of 150 charter schools nationally – 19 here in Ohio – and bilks American taxpayers by paying for airline tickets and visa application costs for Turkish citizens who travel to America to join the staff of these schools, all the while being paid more than American teachers in the same schools who hold full state teacher licensure.

But while ignoring the growing Turkish charter school chain scandal, the Dispatch did offer yet another facet of the proliferating world of Chartergate.

On Friday, July 24, the paper published a story about the FCI Academy, a charter school located in Columbus, and its current financial woes that led to the layoff of twelve teachers. In the story, the Dispatch mentioned that the school was founded by Bishop Edgar Allen Posey of the Living Faith Apostolic Church and his wife, Tracey, along with a third party. The newspaper report also stated that the school’s current governing board president is Tracey Posey, wife of the same Bishop Edgar Allen Posey.

Intended or not, the Dispatch story opened up yet another can of worms in that murky world called Ohio charter schools.

A Google search lists an address for FCI Academy as 2177 Mock Road, Columbus, and another Google search for the Living Faith Apostolic Church shows the church being located at the same address. The co-location of the church and the school, along with the fact that the wife of the church’s pastor is president of the charter school’s governing authority, should raise very serious issues with the Ohio Department of Education, State Auditor. Attorney General, and other state monitors related to the legal status of this school as a qualified recipient of state education funds.

An examination of the school’s website shows that FCI Academy last posted an annual report for the 2010-2011 school year. That report lists Tracey Posey as the president of the school governing board, along with Carly Shye as treasurer. In late 2012, Shye was sentenced to two years in prison and fined more than $470,000 for embezzlement from a number of charter schools that he served as treasurer.

In light of the school being founded by a bishop, currently housed in church property, and the bishop’s spouse currently serving as president of the school governing authority, astute observers wonder how does this state of affairs complies with the requirements of Ohio Revised Code Section 3314.03 (A)(11)(c):

“The school will be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and will not be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution.”

But wait, there’s more.

Since a query about this situation was sent to the governor’s office for review to determine if the school and its sponsor were in compliance with state law, other astute observers have advised us that FCI Academy is not alone in what seems to be another apparent entanglement of church and state.

So before we go off into the wild blue yonder, there is the curious case of the Heir Force Academy, now known as Heir Force Community School.

This is from the school’s website:

Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders
One Child at a Time

The Heir Force Community School began as a Private School founded by Cornerstone Harvest Church in Lima, Ohio, called Heir Force Academy. In January 2001, the HFA School Board was established. In 2004, the HFA converted from a Chartered Nonpublic to a Chartered Community School.

Or did it?

In looking at this formerly chartered nonpublic school which is now receiving state taxpayer funds as a public charter school, an examination of two other websites reveals that Darwin Lofton is the associate pastor of Cornerstone Harvest Church and Darwin Lofton is the Executive Director of Heir Force Community School. The school’s governing board lists David Roberts as its president, and Sherri Roberts, his wife, also sits on the board of the public charter school.

The same questions raised by the church and state entanglements of FCI Academy and Living Faith Apostolic Church in Columbus cry out for answers when a discerning eye looks at the structures between Heir Force Community School and Cornerstone Harvest Church in Lima. Somehow those questions lead us back to the law:

“The school will be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and will not be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution.”

There has been contact with the governor’s office about these two situations, and the governor’s staff has forwarded the queries to the Ohio Department of Education, which forwarded them to the school’s sponsor.

As of this writing, there has been no substantive reply regarding this situation which appears to be in violation of statute.

In light of the silence from ODE, the sponsor and the schools, what do you, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, think about this? Operators are (not) standing by.

If you do have an opinion, contact the governor’s office and let them know. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to also contact John Kasich’s great friend, Dick Ross, at the Ohio Department of Education. He’s not very good at answering complaints, but you can try anyway.

One more thought. If you’re still upset, maybe you might contact the Dispatch to wake them up from their coma which prevents them from covering charter school scandals.


Authored by friend of the blog and advocate of accountable schools