The Arts Academy

CLEVELAND -- The Arts Academies -- two troubled charter schools, in Cleveland and Lorain -- have shut down.

But tying up all the loose ends is proving far from easy as the schools' operator and their sponsor, the Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center, continue to point fingers at each other and the Ohio Department of Education.

At the same time, Ashe and the Education Department are duking it out over whether Ashe deserves to continue as a sponsor, with the fight joined by lawyers all the way up to Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine...
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The financial records of six Cleveland-area charter schools are in such bad shape that the Ohio auditor's office says they cannot be properly checked.

All of the schools declared "unauditable" on Tuesday are overseen by the Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center, which is facing revocation of its sponsorship authority by the Ohio Department of Education.

Four of the unauditable schools (Arts Academy West, Elite Academy of the Arts, Lion of Judah Academy and Marcus Garvey Academy) are in Cleveland, and one (The Arts Academy) is in Lorain.

The sixth school, Greater Heights Academy, had campuses in Cleveland Heights and Cleveland but shut down abruptly in November 2008 because of money problems. The auditor's office is trying to untangle financial dealings at Greater Heights as far back as 2006.

The five unauditable schools that are still open received more than $5.5 million from the state last year to educate over 700 students…

The pressure escalated in September when the Education Department charged that Ashe failed to act on evidence of improper test-taking at Marcus Garvey Academy.

A scoring company had found a high percentage of answers on state tests were erased and changed from wrong to right, but Ashe concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing and considered the case closed. The Education Department did not agree and still has the scores under review.

The department also has several other problems with Ashe, including poor academic performance at some schools, cases of school staffers lacking necessary licenses, and improper closing procedures at Greater Heights Academy that left students without transcripts…

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