Charter school rocked by cheating scandal closes Thursday

(WISH Photo/Jeff Wagner)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Classrooms were being cleaned out Thursday morning on the final day for Flanner House Elementary Charter School.

The school’s Board of Directors decided to close the school after an investigation by the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation and Indiana Deptartment of Education revealed a cheating scandal involving I-STEP exams.

Indianapolis Charter Schools Director Brandon Brown said every student has found a new school. Of the nearly 180 students who attended Flanner House Elementary, only six remained in class Thursday.

Brown said some had parents who worked at the school and others wished to stay through the final day, however they will be at a new school going forward.

Brown said the elementary school had a lease agreement with Flanner House Incorporated. He said that lease will be terminated this month. The trailers that were used as classrooms will be removed in the coming weeks.

When asked about the investigation being conducted by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Brown said, “We can’t speak to exactly who was involved but we do know that the extent of the happened was very comprehensive and we’ll leave that up to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to really determine who was at fault.”

Standing outside her home and directly across from where her son went to school, Nanette Peters still can’t believe all of those memories are now a thing of the past.

I could sit and watch him. I could make sure he got in the door. Sometimes on my off days it was nice to be able to look out the window, out my bedroom window up there and just kind of see him over there playing,” she said. “It will be very strange, it will be very strange.”

Strange is how she describes the empty playground, empty classrooms, and empty feeling knowing that the place she trusted to teach her son is closed thanks to a cheating scandal.

Peters explained what happened the day she picked her son up from school when news of the cheating broke.

“My son’s crying telling me he didn’t mean to cheat he didn’t mean to cheat and he was so sorry and I had no idea what was going on,” she said.

But students didn’t cheat. The Mayor’s Office said it was teachers who revised and edited their responses to real I-STEP questions before the exam was administered.

“Closing schools is incredibly difficult. You know, it’s most challenging on families. It’s been very challenging on staff and it’s been extremely challenging for the school community,” said Brown.

To make that process easier, an enrollment fair was held to help families transition to new schools.

Peters found her son a new school before that, now her attention is focused on the soon to be empty trailers near her home.

“You got to worry about vandals and you know squatters, whatever else,” she said.

Brown said the Mayor’s Office has a closure checklist and that one of the times on that checklist is to make sure the facilities are secure.

He added that the trailers should be gone in a few weeks, a sight that will take some getting used to for Peters.

“I still feel that sense of betrayal because I had hoped to let him go all the way through the 6th grade at this one school,” Peters said.

“We also want to make it clear that not every staff member at Flanner House was involved. There are really good folks who worked at Flanner House and we believe that those really good folks who have continued to do the right thing need new jobs and we’re trying to be supportive in that process,” said Brown.

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