Friday, March 18, 2011

Ballard Closing Fountain Square Academy Charter School

Mayor Greg Ballard today announced the closure of the Fountain Square Academy charter school in a press release today for failing to meet performance standards. This is the first charter school Ballard has chosen to close during his term as Indianapolis mayor. His statement on the closure reads:

Fountain Square Academy will not meet renewal standards and will be closed effective at the end of its charter term, at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 school year. The Fountain Square Academy has not lived up to performance standards for multiple years. Based on this evidence and taking into consideration the needs and best interests of students currently enrolled at Fountain Square Academy, Mayor Ballard made the decision to close the school. The board at Fountain Square Academy has elected to partner with a successful charter school for academic and operational assistance for the final year of its charter to ensure that students at Fountain Square receive a high-quality education.

It is vital that children in this neighborhood receive a high-quality middle school and high school, focused on academic achievement,” said Mayor Ballard. “It is my hope that by next year, the charter operator for the final year or another high quality school will apply to start a new, more successful middle and high school, designed to serve students in this area.”
The Fountain Square Academy's school board is chaired by Mark Bowell, a controversial former board member of the Marion County/Indianapolis Public Library Board who pleaded guilty to felony conflict of interest. As the Star reported at the time:

A former Library Board member has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of felony conflict of interest for failing to disclose his financial ties to a company hired to manage the Central Library expansion.

In addition to ending a grand jury investigation, David "Mark" Bowell's surprise plea, filed late Tuesday in Marion Superior Court, could aid the library in civil lawsuits to recover taxpayer money spent on the flawed Downtown library project, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said.

Bowell, 43, was among the board members who in 2002 voted unanimously to award a $5.4 million contract to coordinate work on the Central Library to a joint venture led by Turner Construction Co. of Indiana, a subsidiary of a New York-based firm. The contract later grew to $6.64 million.

Bowell was doing work with Turner at the time through a local marketing firm, Rosetta Advertising and Public Relations. Bowell helped Rosetta land Turner as a client around the time the construction company won the library contract.

Under the plea deal, Bowell, a business and marketing consultant, would receive a one-year suspended sentence. If accepted by a judge, the plea would conclude a criminal inquiry in which grand jurors have heard testimony from at least 20 witnesses since late July.

"Bowell knew that we were literally bringing in everyone and everything to prove his relationship with Turner was improper," Brizzi said. "Every penny that he made because of this conflict will be repaid to the library's capital projects fund."

Bowell, a Republican who served on the Library Board from 1996 to 2004, made $20,811.40 for his work with Turner.
I would also draw attention to another controversial member of this charter school's board. That would be radio talk show host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, who publicly admitted he was not a resident of Indianapolis when Mayor Ballard announced he was appointing him to an advisory board for the Public Safety Director following the controversy surrounding IMPD's handling of several cases last year. At the time of his appointment, I pointed out the irony of Ballard appointing Shabazz to advise the Public Safety Director given his public advocacy for police beatings to fight crime in the city. Shabazz has used the platform of his radio talk show, the lowest rated show in the Indianapolis radio market, to bash the performance of Indianapolis Public Schools and, in particular, the management of its Superintendent, Eugene White. What is is they say about people who live in glass houses? Shabazz certainly leads the race to the bottom.

UPDATE: An observant reader pointed out that it looks like Shabazz never bothered to show up for any board meetings despite being a board member according to the minutes of the board's meetings posted on the school's website. Why would a school appoint someone to its board who doesn't even bother to show up for the meetings?


varangianguard said...

Pretty sure that the charterists have failed the children in this case.

I suppose we won't be hearing about that fact from charter proponents?

The promise of charters "for our kids" turns out to be another case of charters to serve a political agenda.

I'm sure that the parents of those kids who school is closing feel like they got a good bargain.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Of, course, Varan, when has a traditional public school ever been closed for poor performance. At least with charters, they don't do their job, they get shut down.

I'm pretty sure charter advocates have no problem with poor performing charter schools getting shut down.

varangianguard said...

Since I can't read the minds of those highly paid promoters at places like The Mind Trust, I cannot offer a rebuttal to your point.