'We're team players,' the head of a charter school says in a plea for sponsorship.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Bishop Norman Wagner waved a $200,000 carrot before city school board members to help persuade them to sponsor Legacy Academy charter school.
But the board isn't biting, at least not yet.
Bishop Wagner, who leads Legacy Academy on the city's South Side, told the board Tuesday that the academy would return $200,000 in state funds to the school district if it would agree to take over sponsorship of the school.
"We are willing to meet," Bishop Wagner, pastor of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church, said after a 20-minute presentation to the board. "Our concern is on the children."
Board response: Carolyn Funk, school district treasurer, said the school district still would lose about $200,000 by agreeing to be a sponsor, even with Legacy's offer.
Even board President Lock P. Beachum Sr., expected to be one of Bishop Wagner's supporters, said he's reluctant to back Legacy's request after hearing Funk's projections.
"I can't support it unless I see something different," he said after Tuesday's meeting.
Beachum said the board expects to vote on the request at a future meeting.
Board member Clarence Boles seemed to be agitated by Legacy's presentation, which included an impassioned plea by Verna Wylie, Legacy principal.
"Let's leave the marketing and PR," Boles told Bishop Wagner. "Peel it away."
Earlier, Wylie asked board members to focus on the children at Legacy.
"Right now, the children at Legacy are the ones being hurt by all of this stuff going on," she said.
Boles responded: "It is about the 'stuff.' The 'stuff' has decimal points and dollar signs."
Charter controversy: Last summer, the Lucas County Educational Service Center approved a charter school contract for Legacy, and the school opened in October at the church.
Charter schools are privately operated yet publicly funded schools that do not charge tuition and receive about $5,000 per pupil annually in state and local funds.
In December, the city school board filed a lawsuit contending that Lucas County ESC cannot sponsor charter schools outside Lucas County. The state education department agreed and withheld funds from Legacy.
Bishop Wagner and Wylie said that has severely hurt Legacy's ability to operate.
"It is very challenging," Wylie told the board.
Bishop Wagner wants the public schools to help by replacing Lucas County as sponsor, thus freeing up state funds.
"We're team players," he said.
Wylie said her concern is not with the debate over charter schools.
"There should be no adversarial relations when we talk about children," she said.
Board member Gerri Sullivan said she opposes sponsorship. If Legacy would be forced to close, "we have the capabilities of taking care of those children," she said.
The money: Funding for Legacy and the four other charter schools in Youngstown is funneled through the city public schools.
Funk estimated that the district will receive about $3,700 in state aid for each Legacy pupil, but it will pay out about $5,000 per pupil.
That means the district will lose about $1,300 for each pupil officially enrolled through the city schools and even more for pupils not officially enrolled, she said.
Based on that formula, the school district would lose about $435,000 this year if it sponsors Legacy, Funk reported. That would be cut nearly in half if Legacy returns $200,000.
Funk said she is not even entirely sure that Legacy could return the money. "They would have to write us a check," Funk said.
Some board members maintain Bishop Wagner still owes the school district thousands of dollars in back rent and utility payments for leasing the former Princeton Junior High School.