AMOS BROWN COMMENTARY AND COMMUNITY REACTION NOW ADDED! Anger is growing in the community over the lack of explanation and sensitivity shown by Ball State University’s Office of Charter Schools in the wake of their decision not to renew the charters of Fall Creek Academy and University Heights Preparatory Academy. In a stunning announcement, Ball State University informed Fall Creek Academy, one of Indianapolis’ original charter schools, and University Heights Preparatory Academy that their charters would not be renewed for the 2015-2016 school year. During Afternoons with Amos, Fall Creek Academy parents called in to say they first learned of the closing from their children who were told during a school event Wednesday. Parents wanted to know why and were stunned to hear that officials from Ball State weren’t prepared to personally answer their concerns. Afternoons with Amos Host/Managing Editor Amos Brown shared his anger and disappointment at Ball State’s lack of engagement and explanation with the community. Amos shared with listeners and community the contact information of Robert A. Marra, Executive Director, Office of Charter Schools at Ball State. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 765-285-1336. Click the Media Player To Hear Amos’ Commentary and Community Reaction to Ball State’s Lack of Candor in Explaining Their Decision to Close Two Indy Charter Schools. Runs 31 Minutes ©2015 WTLC/Radio One.
FULL STORY OF CHARTER SCHOOL CLOSING: In a terse e-mail to PraiseIndy.com, Robert A. Marra, Executive Director, Office of Charter Schools at Ball State University, informed Fall Creek and University Heights that their charters would not being renewed “due to chronic under-performance”. Marra refused to expand or amplify on that statement. Ball State informed the school of the decision on Friday, January 16th. Staff was informed after the Dr., King Holiday on Tuesday, January 20th and parents and students were informed today, January 21st that the two schools will close at the end of this school year in June. In a statement, Charlie Schlegel, Superintendent of Fall Creek Academy and University Heights said, “As soon as we were notified of Ball State’s decision, we immediately put a plan into action to notify those who would be affected. While we are proud of the progress our students, faculty and staff made during our administration, in the end, progress did not occur quickly enough to keep the schools open.” Ball State says Fall Creek and University Heights can appeal the decision by February 3rd. However, in a conservation with officials of the Community Charter Network which operates the two schools, they said they do not plan to appeal. They’re planning to focus on finishing the school year on a positive note and helping students and parents through this transition. The decision by Ball State to close the two schools, means that the University will not have any traditional classroom based charter schools in Indianapolis. Two “virtual” or hybrid virtual/classroom charters remain in Indy, but Ball State’s decision ends the university have any charters in the state’s largest city and county. Fall Creek Academy at Fall Creek and Capitol Avenue was one of the original charter schools in Indianapolis chartered by then Mayor Bart Peterson. Its sister school began a year later in the Fountain Square neighborhood on Indy’s south side as Fountain Square School. The two schools were then operated by the Geo Foundation. In its first years the two schools had up and down academic records but in recent years had suffered academic and leadership challenges. The City of Indianapolis declined to renew the charters of the two schools in 2011. As the result of the City’s declining to renew the two schools, the Community Charter Network, which operates the highly successful Challenge Foundation Academy in the Meadows area, took over leadership of the schools and got Ball State to charter them in 2011. Academically, in its first year of operation, the 2004-05 school year, Fall Creek Academy earned top honors in Indiana’s then accountability system. Then for the next five school years, Fall Creek was consistent, earning the equivalent of a “C” or acceptable progress rating. But then beginning in the 2011-12 school year, Fall Creek dropped to an “F” grade in Indiana’s accountability system and they’ve remained there the past three years. University Heights (then Fountain Square) had a rocky beginning earning the equivalent of an “F” in Indiana’s accountability rankings for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. In the following school year, the school improved to a “C”, fell back to a “D”, improving back to a “C” in 2010-11. The past three school years, University Heights has had a steady “D” grade in Indiana’s accountability ratings. Both schools had tried to improve by tying into Ivy Tech, across the street from Fall Creek and the University of Indianapolis, down the street from University Heights. But Ball State seemingly lumped both schools together and made the decision to cancel their charters. Fall Creek and University Heights are the fourth and fifth Indianapolis charter schools closed or announced to be closed this school year. Flanner House Charter School was closed right after the start of the school year in August. That same month, Andrew and Padua Academies announced they would cease being charters in June 2015.