An Ohio school board has reluctantly agreed not to hire reading tutors after the local teachers’ union filed a lawsuit.
The Akron Board of Education voted 5-0 on Feb. 1 to rescind a contract with private tutoring company Varsity Tutors for 2,400 hours of one-on-one tutoring.
Roughly 70% of Akron students can’t read at grade level.
“This was an incredible opportunity for our scholars,” said Superintendent Michael Robinson. “Unfortunately, we are not able to proceed with this program.”
The district’s hands were tied when the Akron Education Association (AEA) filed a lawsuit claiming the board had violated an open meetings law when discussing a potential contract. It also claimed the board meeting video was tampered with to exclude 40 seconds of objection to the Varsity Scholars contract.
The AEA asked the court not only to invalidate the board’s vote to approve the contract, but also to prevent the board from hiring any private tutoring service until the case is resolved.
Although Robinson and the school board firmly repudiated the union’s claims, the $156,000 state grant – which would have funded Varsity Tutors – expired Feb. 1.
Union representatives praised the board’s decision to roll back the contract.
“The board’s action tonight was a step in the right direction toward transparency and accountability,” said AEA attorney Don Malarcik. “I hope the board and superintendent realize now that collaboration and communication is much better than litigation.”
However, the video-tampering portion of the lawsuit will still move forward.
Community members were disappointed with what they see as the board’s spinelessness.
“To allow yourself to be bullied, to allow the newspaper to say you are dysfunctional,” said Rev. Gregory Harrison, “people are attacking the school board and the superintendent because they don’t like what is happening.
“Help them read. Are the students failing in school, or are the schools failing the students?”