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Copley wins residency fight

By John Published: January 17, 2011

Copley-Fairlawn school district is almost entirely self-funded and does not enroll students who don't live in the district. My colleague Ed Meyer has been writing about an unusual criminal charge brought against a mother who did enroll her children in Copley.  The district hired a private investigator who secretly shot video to provide evidence that she was living with her, not with her father in the Copley-Fairlawn district.

The jury returned its verdict on Saturday:

A Summit County jury has convicted a 40-year-old Akron woman on two felony counts of tampering with records for deception in connection with the tuition-free enrollment of two of her children in Copley-Fairlawn schools.

After seven hours of deliberations Saturday, the panel failed to reach a unanimous verdict on a third felony count against Kelley Williams-Bolar for grand theft.

Her father, Edward L. Williams, 64, faced one count of grand theft for allegedly aiding and abetting his daughter in deceptive acts to obtain educational services for her children at the Copley-Fairlawn schools for the period of August 2006 to June 2008.

But the jury also failed to reach a unanimous verdict on that charge against the father.

Here's what I wrote about Copley-Fairlawn's finances last summer when the district was gearing up to pass an operating levy in the August special election.
    The state considers the Copley-Fairlawn district a ''very high income/very low poverty'' district, which means local taxpayers are responsible for almost all of the district's annual budget of about $30 million.

    The state contributes only about $1.1 million a year after transfers for charter schools and other deductions. That is the lowest per-pupil state revenue payment among Summit County's 17 districts.

Voters approved the 6.9 mill levy: a  23-percent increase for the owner of a $100,000 home. Had they rejected the levy, the district would have elminated high school busing, imposed fees to participate in sports and activities and increased class sizes.

On the other hand, this parent had reason to believe that the matter had been settled years ago. Again, from Meyer's trial coverage:

The jury saw another defense exhibit during Williams-Bolar's testimony: a letter from the assistant legal counsel of the Ohio Department of Education. It was dated Jan. 17, 2008 about 21/2 months after a contentious hearing that involved Williams-Bolar, her father and Copley-Fairlawn school officials.

At that 30-minute hearing in October 2007, school officials repeatedly insisted they had videotape evidence they said showed Williams-Bolar's children really were living with her in subsidized housing in Akron.

The education department letter, which was sent to Williams-Bolar and her attorney, informed them the department had considered a dispute over the claim by Edward Williams that he had filed for power-of-attorney in a grandparent authorization affidavit involving the two children.

The state had asked attorneys for Williams-Bolar and for the school district to weigh in on the matter. Only the attorney for Williams-Bolar complied.

The letter concluded with the statement: ''The Department is considering the matter closed at this time.''

O'Brien asked Williams-Bolar what she felt the state letter meant in view of the school district's position at the October 2007 hearing.

''We thought that the case was closed. We thought that was the end of it,'' she replied.



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