President of Ohio Christian Alliance.
This week at the Ohio Statehouse, legislators and faith leaders joined together to address the sudden middle of the school closure of Ohio’s largest online school, affecting 12,000 students, including 2,287 seniors.
ECOT School Closure Crisis Update
Here is a brief timeline of what has occurred since the ECOT School closure on January 18th three weeks ago.
The school’s sponsor, Educational Service Center Lake Erie West, voted to close the school due to lack of funding.
The court appointed an interim master (receiver), Attorney Myron Terlecky, who is a bankruptcy attorney, to oversee the school’s closure.
A press conference was held at the Ohio Statehouse with Education Committee Chairman Rep. Andrew Brenner, Rep. Andy Thompson, Rep. Jim Butler, Rep. Robert Sprague, OCA President Chris Long, and former ECOT Assistant Principal Laura Beth MacNamara. At the press conference an appeal was made to the Ohio Department of Education and Superintendent DeMaria to work out a solution with the ECOT officials so that the school could at least continue to until June for the sake of 12,000 students and the nearly 2,300 seniors. An appeal was also made to Governor Kasich by OCA President Chris Long and Rev. Al Davis (OCA Board member) to intervene and bring the parties together to find a working solution for the sake of the students. The Governor did not respond to the OCA letter of appeal.
The Governor, however, stated the following to the press, ““I have told our people (at the Department of Education) that it is up to them to manage this situation … that they are prepared to be able to absorb these students,” Gov. John Kasich said. “We have told them that on a regular basis without getting into the middle of negotiations. We don’t believe it is our job to do that, it’s not appropriate. So, we’ll see what happens and I certainly hope the Department of Education has a plan.”
This statement from the Governor does not make sense, because he did intervene in the Cleveland and Youngstown School District problems over the last few years. We have to ask the question back to the Governor, “Since when is it not appropriate to help 12,000 Ohio students?” The Governor has become tone deaf when it comes to the 12,000 ECOT students, including 2,287 seniors who were depending on him to do his job.
In their rush to close ECOT, the following problems were created:
The court-appointed interim master, Attorney Terlecky, quickly ordered the ECOT school student records to be returned to the local school districts the following week after the ECOT school’s closure. The ECOT teachers were then instructed to take the student records to a liaison that would meet them to receive the records, rather than taking them directly to the local school boards to be received in proper order with a time stamp by local officials. Then on January 30, in the middle of the process, and one day short of the 120-day school calendar for the teachers, Atty. Terlecky sent a letter to each of the 800 teachers informing them that they were laid off immediately. This was while the records were still in process of being delivered to the liaisons and school districts. The ODE also retracted its order for some of the students’ records because in their rush to close the school and ship the records back to the local districts, they found themselves in violation of federal law. Special needs students must have a parental authorization before their records can be transferred. The ODE then issued another order to continue with the transfer of student records, confusing things even more. At that time, the teachers were unemployed and had lost their health insurance. Mr. Terlecky had moved too aggressively, without much thought. Judge Holbrook called him back into court and ordered that the teachers should at least receive their back pay. However, the teachers did lose their health insurance.
This week, the State Supreme Court will hear the ECOT School case. The decision from the Court may not come down immediately, which will perpetuate the problem of the students and teachers still in limbo.
The Ohio Department of Education is now claiming in a communication to members of the Ohio Legislature that nearly 9,000 students have made application to other schools. They are receiving this information from Lake Erie West, the former sponsor of ECOT school. But, the information cannot be confirmed. It is still uncertain as to where most of the students have ended up. Some have applied to other online schools, but according to reports, one online school, Ohio Virtual Academy, has ceased to take applications. They are overwhelmed and are unable to take on any more students. There are still many students who are unaccounted for three weeks after the ECOT school closure.
Rep. Andy Brenner said that the magnitude of this crisis in reality is that this is the largest school to ever close mid-year in Ohio’s history. Rep. Andy Thompson stated in the press conference, “We really don’t have any great solutions for these students right now. “It is obvious that the Ohio Department of Education, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and Governor Kasich were not prepared for this crisis, and had no workable plan for the 12,000 ECOT students, including nearly 2,300 seniors, that depended on them to make the right decisions for their education.
On Tuesday of this week, the State School Board will be in session. We urge you to communicate with your State School Board members and let them know that the ECOT school closure crisis must be dealt with in a timely manner for the sake of these students.
Who is responsible for this crisis?
- The Ohio Department of Education and Superintendent Paolo DeMaria
- Governor Kasich, because of his indifference and lack of action
These questions still remain unanswered:
Where are the 12,000 ECOT students now? What is happening with them? If they are enrolled in other schools, the Ohio Department of Education must provide a complete report of verification for each student.
Interim Master Attorney Myron Terlecky and the Ohio Department of Education need to ensure that the students’ records are delivered properly to the school districts with time stamping verification of the status of each student.
We will not rest until all of these school children are accounted for. We’re not going to let them be forgotten. Many of them have special needs and cannot return to public schools, but want to complete their education. ECOT was meeting that need for these students. It is important that the adults who are responsible see to it. We, the public, will hold them accountable.
Christopher R. Long
Ohio Christian Alliance
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