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Critics charge chaos rules at Ohio charter school

Sex games, testing improprieties and visa violations are among the allegations leveled at a Dayton charter school whose operator already is the target of an FBI investigation in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.

The Ohio State Board of Education this week heard four former teachers from the Horizon Science Academy describe chaotic conditions at the school, including claims that middle-schoolers engaged in oral sex and that Turkish employees at the school don’t teach classes, as their immigration status requires, but instead work as IT coordinators, as administrators and in other non-education positions. Tours of the charter school are carefully orchestrated to conceal the Turkish employees from visiting dignitaries and elected officials, according to the Ohio teachers.

Search warrants were executed last month at charter schools operated by the Dayton school’s parent company, Concept Schools Inc., including one of three campuses of the Indiana Math and Science Academy in Indianapolis. The warrants were in connection to an “ongoing white-collar crime matter,” a special agent in the Cleveland FBI office told the Chicago Sun Times.

Concept charter schools seek employment visas for Turkish residents. The schools have been tied to Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania. He is honorary president of the Niagara Foundation, which actively courts elected officials, law enforcement and media representatives with dinner parties, award presentations and all-expense-paid trips to Turkey. The foundation’s Indiana chapter has presented awards to high-ranking officials on both sides of the political aisle.

Huntertown must stop its tilting at windmills

How much longer can Huntertown continue on its quixotic quest to build its own sewage-treatment plant?

Battling developers, Fort Wayne City Utilities and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is costing the town a bundle in legal fees – $304,397 in just the first five months of this year.

Fort Wayne, which continues to process Huntertown’s sewage without a contract, now is offering the town $1 million to help build a new sewer infrastructure that would lower customers’ bills by $120 a year.

The city’s plan would allow Huntertown to provide for and control growth in its area, something that was a key motivation for the town’s plan to declare independence from City Utilities.

In 2012, IDEM rejected Huntertown’s original request to build a treatment plant because the discharge of treated water would pollute the Eel River. Huntertown recently submitted a revised plan, which calls for discharging wastewater at another point along the river, that answers that concern.

Of course Fort Wayne, which is in the midst of a long-range plan to address pollution that goes into the rivers here, can treat Huntertown sewage without affecting the Eel River at all.

Primary victories by anti-establishment candidates mean that the town’s stubbon pursuit of sewage-processing independence will face scrutiny next year. And if IDEM rejects Huntertown’s new proposal, the rationale for resisting Fort Wayne’s offer would collapse anyway.

But why wait for those things to unfold?

It’s time for Huntertown to put a hold on its bold plans to build and sue and annex its way to total independence. After all, even Don Quixote eventually came to his senses.

Restaurant would rather switch than fight ban

In the battle over state and local smoking bans, Rack & Helen’s in New Haven was a defiant holdout among area restaurants and bars, capitalizing on Fort Wayne’s comprehensive ban to lure smokers and reminding customers it still allowed smoking even after the state barred smoking in establishments serving customers younger than 21.

“We have a lot of non-smoking people come here and support the idea that we allow smoking because it’s a choice,” co-owner Pat Anderson told a Fort Wayne TV station in 2011. “Isn’t that what this country’s all about is choice?”

It is, indeed. Which is why the popular New Haven restaurant is choosing to go smoke-free on Aug. 1.

In spite of a ventilation system, the restaurant’s smoking status was responsible for the biggest number of customer complaints, according to Sam Holt, Rack & Helen’s general manager.

Reviews from diners and food reviewers alike praised the restaurant but panned its smokers-welcome stance.

Holt said the smoking ban will allow the restaurant to open an entrance to a banquet room that currently requires customers to enter and exit from outside. He’s hoping the new entrance will entice some of those guests to drop by the bar on their way out. The restaurant’s popular family day promotion also can be reinstated.

Jill Leal of Tobacco Free Allen County said she was surprised to hear of the owners’ change of heart because of their long-standing protest, but she’s also “thrilled” to finally be able to patronize the restaurant.

“Even though we live in that area, we don’t get to frequent some places in New Haven because our son has asthma and we can’t subject him to those establishments,” she said. “They are opening their door to both former customers and to brand-new customers.”