Part 1 of 3 parts by the Beacon Journal and the NewsOutlet.org
Published March 29-31, 2014
By John C. Veauthierand Karen S. Bell
Jim Sinclair agreed to talk with a reporter on the telephone, but he made it clear he was not going to reveal any information about his school, Lorain Preparatory Academy of Excellence.
The self-described leader of the publicly funded charter school wanted some proof that the young voice on the phone was indeed a reporter.
“The first thing you need to do before I can even handle this discussion is to send me a fax with the letterhead stating who you are before I give out any information to anybody,” Sinclair said.
The fax was sent, but there was no response.
That was not out of the ordinary in calls to nearly 300 Ohio charter schools — funded with state and local tax dollars and, by law, subject to the same transparency rules as traditional schools.
The calls were made as part of a school-choice project by the Akron Beacon Journal and the NewsOutlet, a consortium of journalism programs at Youngstown State University, the University of Akron and Cuyahoga Community College.
In a phone-call blitz that began in early January, students in the journalism lab called 294 of Ohio’s 393 charter schools in operation at the time, seeking basic information:
•?Who runs the building?
•?Who is that person’s supervisor?
•?Who is the management company in charge?
•?How does one contact the school board?
•?When does the board meet?
Public accountability was difficult. Of the 294 called, the results by March 26 were:
•?114 — more than a third — did not return messages seeking information.
•?Eight refused to answer.
•?Seven said they would call back but did not.
•?73 provided some of the information.
•?80, or about 1 in 4, provided the information requested.
For the rest of the story and the series, go here.