Story from Menlo Park, where white folks insist in their own cut of that charter cash:
Split vote gives Cleveland school levy dollars to charter school for gifted - and mostly white - kids
The Menlo Park Academy charter school for gifted children is now a partner with the Cleveland school district, after a split vote Tuesday night.
Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer By Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer
on December 20, 2014 at 1:18 PM, updated December 20, 2014 at 1:19 PM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Cleveland taxpayers are now contributing some of their property taxes to Menlo Park Academy -- a West Park charter school for gifted students that hopes to add more Cleveland students if it can move to a building closer to downtown.
The school board voted Tuesday to partner with the highly-rated elementary school and add it to the list of charter schools that share a portion of the Issue 107 school levy that voters passed in 2012.
The 4-3 vote was a rare split for a board that usually passes items with little dissent.
Board members debated whether they should share money with a specialty school whose enrollment does not reflect the students of the district: Menlo Park has only gifted students that are mostly white and Asian, with few black students and almost no Hispanic students.
It also has a staff and board that is almost all white.
"Diversity is a very big concern that I am having here tonight," said board member Wiletta Milam, who voted against sharing money. "What are you going to do about correcting that?"
Teri Harrison, who heads the Menlo Park school board, said the school welcomes students of all races and backgrounds, but it has few applicants that are not white. She noted the school gives admissions preference to Cleveland kids and said she hopes to increase the minority presence at the school.
"We'd certainly like to see that increase," Harrison said.
According to the school's application to partner with the district, the school at 14440 Triskett Road in the former school of St. Mel Parish, started in 2008 with 38 students. It now has 360.
In recent years, it has scored at or near the top of the region in performance scores on the state report cards.
All students must be considered gifted through a series of tests, all approved by the Ohio Department of Education. According to the school's application, classes are "designed to stretch the academic level and interests of cognitively gifted learners whose abilities exceed typical age-defined models."
Menlo Park Academy
The school is also very different demographically from the district. About 38 percent of its students are from the suburbs. The application also included a chart, shown to the right, that compares Menlo Park's demographics to the neighborhood, which is served by the district's Riverside elementary school.
That drew concerns from Milam and board members Shaletha Mitchell and Lisa Thomas, who questioned why the school does not have more diverse students and faculty.
Those three voted against partnering with the school, while board members Denise Link, Louise Dempsey, Anne Bingham and Robert Heard voted for it. Board members Ericka Abrams and Stephanie Morales were absent.
Eric Gordon, the district's chief executive officer, noted the significant difference between the populations of Menlo Park and the district. He said when the district placed the 2012 levy on the ballot, one mill of the 15-mill tax was set aside specifically for charters whose student bodies are comparable to the city neighborhoods around them.
Menlo Park does not really fit that description, he noted, but the district is committed to partnering with quality schools serving different students. . . .