Springfield charter board, operator to split

Each will open new charter schools in Springfield.

A Springfield charter school operator and its board of directors will part ways at the end of June, and both plan to open new schools in the city.

Life Skills Center of Springfield operator White Hat Management said it will re-open with new courses and resources for students after its current contract with the school’s board of directors expires at the end of this month.

And, the board of directors will seek to create a new school on North Limestone Street, the board’s president said.

The announcement Friday of Life Skills Center of Springfield’s re-opening under the name Life Skills High School came as the Springfield News-Sun began investigating rumors of a possible closing, employee lockout, and firing of School Administrator Karl Perkins by operator White Hat Management.

White Hat Regional Manager Vallrey Crump said Friday the school would continue to operate as is through the end of the contract, hadn’t changed its locks and hadn’t taken keys from current employees.

Crump added that the company doesn’t comment on personnel matters. However, it appears that Perkins was recently placed on administrative leave, according to an email from a White Hat vice president that was obtained by the News-Sun.

Rodd Coker, vice president of business development and community engagement, indicated in the email sent Friday afternoon that the administrator of the school was placed on paid administrative leave, but declined to discuss circumstances in the email.

It’s a move that Board of Directors President Rod Hale said is a breach of contract.

“We did not renew a contract with (White Hat), and (Thursday) we started getting information that they were making changes at the school and that they fired our administrator,” Hale said. “Part of the terms of the contract is that they are supposed to communicate directly with the board and let us know in advance of that type of action taking place.”

Lack of communication with the board has been an ongoing problem with White Hat, Hale said, and a similar instance happened recently at the board-governed Life Skills Center of Middletown.

“They just fired the guy in Middletown and no one would tell us why. It took me a couple days just to get anyone from White Hat to respond and we never did get an answer,” Hale said.

Hale noted the company might be upset about the board’s decision to not renew the contract, “but we make decisions based on what we think is in the best interest of the students and taxpayer dollars.”

White Hat representatives didn’t respond to questions about the communications issue.

In a news release announcing the new Life Skills High School, which will continue to operate in its current location in the Southern Village Shopping Center, the company said it would expand its nontraditional high school offerings for students ages 16 to 21.

“(Life Skills High School) will be in the same location, but with a fresh new look encouraging collaboration and service learning,” Maggie Ford, White Hat’s chief academic officer, said in the news release.

It’s being opened by the board of the Life Skills Centers of Columbus, according to Crump. The Life Skills Center of Springfield currently has 128 students enrolled, according to Crump.

Its new staff members will be a combination of current, past and new employees, she said.

Meanwhile, the current board of directors of the Life Skills Center of Springfield is seeking to open Cliff Park High School at 821 N. Limestone St., according to zoning documents.

Property owners Steve and Terri Bruce applied for a conditional use permit for the property in order to establish Cliff Park School, according to the documents. That application is set to go before the Springfield Board of Zoning Appeals at 7 p.m. today in the City Hall Forum, 76 E. High St.

The more than 6,400-square-foot vacant property is currently zoned as a commercial office district. It formerly housed professional service offices like physical therapists, insurance and others, according to the zoning case.

Cliff Park High School will serve students ages 16-21 and specialize in individual online learning in a non-traditional high school setting.

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