School officials worried about Ivy Academy

School officials worried about Ivy Academy

November 3rd, 2009 by Kelli Gauthier in News

Less than three months after Ivy Academy opened its doors, Hamilton County Schools officials say they have concerns about the charter high school.

Rick Smith, Hamilton County Schools' deputy superintendent, said that since last week he has received calls from three parents asking that their children be transferred from Ivy Academy to another school.

Mr. Smith said the parents told him their children did not receive the opportunities and the unique instruction they were promised at the beginning of the year.

He said he denied the transfers because, like magnet school students, those attending a charter school must stay enrolled for the entire year once accepted.

The parents also told him that Ivy's director of programs and operations, Steve Bontekoe, was leaving the school, Mr. Smith said.

Ivy Academy board president Chris Daly said Monday that Mr. Bontekoe resigned, but Mr. Bontekoe said he was laid off.

"They laid off the director of programs. I did not resign," Mr. Bontekoe said. "I feel like Ivy is a beautiful idea, and I wish them the best of luck."

Mr. Daly also said he was unaware of that any parents had requested transfers for their students.

"We've not had three students call us, asking to withdraw," he said.

The school also had some transportation issues that were recently resolved and it lost its secretary, whom Mr. Daly said was "let go." He said he would not comment further on personnel issues.

Mr. Smith said all the school's operational issues were troubling, especially the loss of Mr. Bontekoe, the person chosen to manage the school.

"I have concerns when I see the kinds of things I've seen in the last couple of weeks," he said. "You shouldn't be dealing with those kinds of things a quarter of the way through the school year."

Ivy Academy began the process of approval in November 2007. After its original applications were denied several times by the Hamilton County Board of Education, the school twice appealed to the state board of education and eventually won approval from the state in August 2008.

School leaders then went through three different locations, finally deciding on 40 acres next to the North Chickamauga Creek Pocket Wilderness in Soddy-Daisy.

Hamilton County officials extended several deadlines so Ivy administrators could get their certificate of occupancy in time to start classes in August.

Despite any bumps in the road, Mr. Daly said, his school is in good shape now. While they'd always love to have more money, officials are not looking at the possibility of layoffs, he said.

"I think we are sustainable and moving forward," he said. "Any time you're a new organization, there are challenges that happen, and you face them. We've had great success."

Hamilton County also has a second charter school, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, an all-girls middle-high school that opened in the summer.


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