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A.B. Graham Academy looking for new sponsor

The Graham Local Schools board voted not to renew its sponsorship agreement with the A.B. Graham Academy this week for a second time. The 3-2 decision left both scrambling to get plans together for the next school year.

The Graham district originally voted to not renew the sponsorship agreement in December. ABGA appealed the decision and the district had a board meeting to hear ABGA’s appeal Jan. 13. The district’s second vote not to renew came at a special board meeting Tuesday.

“What made ABGA and makes ABGA what it is remains unchanged. We will do everything we can to minimize the disruption, but this is not what we wanted,” ABGA board president Sean O’Connor said.

The two school boards could not agree on how much “operational control” the Graham district should have over the charter school.

ABGA is a community school that serves more than 280 students through a mix of online, in-class and home-school curriculum. About half the students live in the Graham district.

The Graham district wanted the ability to approve ABGA’s board members and the director of the school. ABGA and the Ohio Department of Education said that would be against Ohio law and would make ABGA lose its state funding.

The district board would not back off its position.

“When the ABGA board did not accept those two critical items in the proposal, our board felt it had no real choice to make besides to not renew the sponsorship,” Graham Superintendent Norm Glismann said.

ABGA had its lawyer present a new counter offer recently, hoping to work towards a compromise for a new sponsorship agreement.

A section of the district’s response to the appeal read, “If the corporate structure is as flawed as A.B. Graham claims, then the most direct remedy for Graham Local would be to remove itself from the arrangement with A.B. Graham, including non-renewing the Sponsorship Contract when it expires.”

The two votes to renew the sponsorship Tuesday came from the two new board members, Steve Setty and Steve Prince. Board President Duane Miller, vice president Alan Mitchell and Pat Wagner voted to not renew.

Now both schools are now working on plans for next year.

ABGA is looking for a new sponsor and has already talked with non-profits, state-level entities and some universities, O’Connor said.

“It’s over and we are moving forward to secure a sponsor that will allow us to continue what we do,” he said.

While the board is looking for new sponsors, ABGA students and parents are stuck with a lot of questions. Students will no longer be allowed to participate in the district’s sports or the marching band, according to O’Connor and the Graham district.

The Graham district is working to create its own curriculum for students in the fall, similar to what ABGA offers.

“We believe we can replicate the program in some way, shape or form,” Glismann said. “We haven’t really talked definitively how to do that.”

The district board plans to meet Monday to talk more about its own digital academy.

It hopes to bring some of the students that went to ABGA back into the district.

“We would welcome our model being properly replicated as long as they don’t destroy us,” O”Connor said.

He said as soon as ABGA finds a sponsor, it will begin seeking an agreement to lease or buy the building it currently uses from GLS.

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