ODE Threatens Charter School Whistleblowers

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) yesterday made chilling statements in response to the Horizon Science Academy charter school scandals being reported. ODE spokesperson John Charlton had this to say (reported in Gongwer)

Mr. Charlton said it's possible the educators who came forward could be investigated by the Office of Professional Conduct themselves. Those referrals and investigations remain confidential under law, however, until action is taken against an educator's license.

"We would like to remind educators that they do have a responsibility as mandatory reporters and certainly we hope that the educators that testified were not withholding information for this political event that they pulled at the board meeting," he said.

It is unconscionable that ODE would threaten any whistleblowers, rather than get down to the business of a real investigation of these charter schools. If ever there was an example of the need for educators to have due process protections provided by a union, this is it.

ODE has sat on information regarding these charter schools all year. Indeed, you can read Matt Blair's allegations going back to at least the beginning of this year, as reported by Dianne Ravitch and Bill Phillis of Ohio E&A.

In June, Plunderbund.com reported on the whitewashing of this investigation by ODE

In an email sent Monday to members of State Board of Education of Ohio, Mr. Blair said he witnessed exposed wiring, mold in the school building and school administrators tampering with standardized tests.

Rather than look in the matter, Ohio’s top education officials launched a phony investigation, complete with instructions to those answering questions to keep their responses brief and “positive.” Translation: Dispute everything Mr. Blair said.

Public records show that the office of Dr. Richard Ross, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction, forwarded questions that he wanted sponsors of the schools to answer. The questions are clearly NOT written to determine whether Blair’s observations were accurate.

For example, the only effort to address the cheating is this question:

“Does the school have a written testing security protocol and does your oversight include confirmation that the protocol is followed?”

The sponsors assured Dr. Ross and all of the schools have policies in place and, “We do not have any reason to believe that this is an active concern.”

Not any hint of whether anyone even asked about the specific cheating allegation: A teacher who came in on a weekend to find a group of Turkish men marking up standardized tests.

In a Hannah news report yesterday, ODE spokesperson John Charlton when even further in smearing these whislteblowers

ODE spokesman John Charlton said the case is a reminder of educators' obligation to respond promptly to certain situations, and he was critical of the way the teachers brought their concerns to the board via the routine public participation session at the board meeting.

"General concern for the welfare of our children, it does not come in the form of a choreographed political stunt," Charlton said.

If ODE had acted when they first learned of these allegations, educators would not have had to go the State Board of Ed and give a public accounting of their experiences. Instead, ODE continues to stonewall and whitewash this scandal involving politically connected charter school operators.

Heads need to roll at ODE. Both for the whitewashing of this scandal and for the chilling response sent to whistleblowers. Here at JTF we have no confidence in ODE to deal adequately and transparently with this scandal.