Flanner House sister school shut down by city in 2005

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An Indianapolis charter school accused of cheating on student test scores was already under scrutiny for poor performance.

13 Investigates also found a sister school to Flanner House Elementary, housed in the same facility and with a similar name, had its charter revoked by the city in 2005.

So why was the elementary allowed to stay open?

City officials say it may have come down to individual charter school applications.

The sad faces saying goodbye on the Flanner House campus this time are young children. Almost 10 years ago, in 2005, the city revoked its charter from the Flanner House Higher Learning Center, a high school housed in the same space.

An audit found a series of egregious failures like inflated enrollment numbers and the awarding of diplomas to students who did not meet Indiana graduation requirements.

Cynthia Diamond, the principal at the time, told Eyewitness News, "Not everything in that report was true."

"When Mayor (Bart) Peterson decided to close the high school, that did not impact Flanner House Elementary," explained Marc Lotter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard. "The two schools were separate. They had separate board of directors. They were separate organizations that just operated in the same facility and shared the Flanner House name."

It's an important distinction.

In a 2004 Accountability Report, the city said the Flanner House Higher Learning Center:

Failed to report enrollment and routinely failed to maintain and report accurate attendance records as required by law

Failed to administer the 9th grade ISTEP tests

Failed to hire certified teachers. That year, only four instructors were licensed.

With $142,000 of debt, the school was shut down in December 2005, but Flanner House Elementary stayed open.

"Should the elementary school have been looked at a little more closely?" asked 13 Investigates.

"I'm not going to go back and second guess some of the decisions of Mayor Peterson," Lotter said.

In 2009, the Ballard administration did a charter review of Flanner House Elementary and found it failing to make the grade.

"The school was also put on notice in 2009, late 2009, that they had some academic and some financial issues that they had to address, and we worked with the school over a course of 50 different meetings," Lotter told 13 Investigates.

But the problems unresolved.

The most recent meeting was scheduled for last week when the Indiana Department of Education found evidence of test tampering and cheating. Now, the elementary is shutting its doors.

The city is trying to help students find a new school before the September 11 closure.

An enrollment fair starts Tuesday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and Wednesday from 1 p.m.-7 p.m. at the Watkins Park Family Center on Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Street. Parents can get information on more than 25 public, private, and charter schools offering placement for their students.