City works to find schools for displaced students

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There's more fallout at a local charter school accused of widespread cheating on state testing for students.

Angry parents are meeting with school officials at Flanner House Elementary with the hope of learning where their children will go in three weeks when the school closes. The first meeting was held Friday evening.

Johnai and her mom love Flanner House charter school."My daughter makes straight As...a B here and there," said Danneka Wimbledaff. "They know how we feel. They know how...it's just frustrating. It's very frustrating."

"It's a parents meeting. You're not coming in," said a woman at the school, barring media access to the meeting.

Eventually, we were allowed in but no cameras.




We heard parents upset they weren't told until now about the state investigation until now even though the principal says she knew about it last October, but thought it was concluded.

"I think the entire community is disappointed they would not take the DOE's recommendations," said school supporter Andre Boyd.

The state Department of Education said one option for the school would be a reform program. But the Flanner House school board voted to close instead. The mayor said later if they had not closed, the city would've close the school.

"It's like trying to treat a patient who has a small melanoma cancer on them, getting a chainsaw or an axe out. You're not going to save the patient," said Boyd.

But the city basically says this patient was too far gone.

"The potential allegations were very widespread. Then we have to ask ourselves what are our responsibility to the children in the school today and what's the school's capacity to make that kind of changes that need to be made?" said Deputy Mayor for Education Jason Kloth.

Some parents are planning a protest for Monday.

"We need the community to come out and help," said one supporter.

But for Johnai's mother, "it seems like the mayor's office just gave up on us."



The city is also now asking the Marion County prosecutor to get involved.

Student Akell Stone can't stop the tears. She held a sign that read, "We are sad. Save or leave? Save our school!"

"What makes you the saddest?" asked Eyewitness News.

"To lose my teacher," said the fifth grader as she began to sob.

Just two weeks into the school year, she's learned she and her three siblings will have to start anew somewhere else. Flanner House Elementary's is a result of what the city is calling a "schoolwide culture of academic dishonesty."

"Been crying. Cried myself to sleep," said Akell's mother, Meagan.



She's afraid her children could be split up and is anxious to hear about available options. The city says it has offers to take students from as many as 20 different schools. They're setting up a website to help parents find the right fit.

"I want all my kids to be together when they do go to school. I have four children that attend this school and it's just stressful, because I don't know what I'm going to do, because I have yet to find a school for my kids," Stone explained.

"That's what we're here for. She don't know that until she get to the meeting," responded Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams.

"So you have blocks for siblings?" Eyewitness News asked.

"That's what we're here for. We've got experts, that's what they do," said Williams.

The end of the school day brought parents and police to the school where emotions are high. Willis doesn't want her face on camera as she and daughter leave campus for the last time, but she told us she found a school for her daughter.

"Just as soon as I heard, I just immediately went (to another school district)," she said.

Signs posted around the school grounds reveal the hearts of the children impacted by the closure.

The big question now is - "Who will hold the adults accountable who allegedly erased and corrected wrong answers and cheated the system?"

"We have some serious concerns around what happened. We can't speak to whether those concerns rise to the level of being criminal, though we've had some attorneys look at it. We believe it's our moral obligation to refer this to the prosecutor's office," said Brandon Brown, Director of Indianapolis Charter Schools.

The prosecutor's office said it's too early to determine what, if any, charges could be filed. The Indiana Department of Education can try to determine which teachers were involved and revoke individual teacher licenses.



Right now, the first order of business is to get 170 children into new schools before the closure.

Marc Lotter, a spokesman with the mayor's office, said the Office of Education Innovation will host enrollment fairs for parents and students next Tuesday and Wednesday night. Parents and students can talk to representatives from at least 15-20 different public, private and charter schools. They can get information about performance, mission, costs, financial assistance, activities and they can even enroll right on the spot.

The fairs will be held in the ballroom at Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center at 2820 N. Meridian Street in Indianapolis. Tuesday's (August 26) fair will be held from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesday's (August 27) fair will run from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.Families can also get more information from the mayor's office at oei.indy.gov.