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State board member resigns as leader of online charter schools

October 30, 2017

Byron Ernest, the head of schools for three Indiana online charter schools, has announced his resignation.

Ernest, also a member of the Indiana State Board of Education, told Chalkbeat he chose to leave his position leading Hoosier Academies schools voluntarily. John Marske, the Hoosier Academies school board chairman, said Ernest told him before the board’s Oct. 24 meeting.

Marske said the announcement was a surprise.

“The board fully supported Dr. Ernest,” Marske said in an email. “And we were quite disappointed upon hearing of his resignation. … We haven’t yet had an opportunity to sit down with him and discuss reasons for his decision.”

It’s unclear if Ernest’s resignation had anything to do with other recent changes for Hoosier Academies.

The school board voted to close Hoosier Academy Virtual last month. At the time, Marske said the board was concerned it could not meet standards set by its authorizer, Ball State University. The school has received seven consecutive F grades from the state, but the state board did not vote to close the school when it had a hearing in May. The hearing was part of the school’s years-long process to convince state education officials to keep it open despite its poor performance.

Ernest worked for K12 Inc., one of the nation’s largest online school providers. Hoosier Academies contracts with K12 to manage its schools.

Hoosier Academies has three schools in Indiana — Hoosier Academy-Indianapolis, where students learn some of the week in-person and some of the week online; Hoosier Academy Virtual, a full-time online school; and Insight School of Indiana, a full-time online school intended for students who struggle and need more intensive support.

The schools were rated a D, F and F, respectively, by the state in 2017.

Ernest previously worked as principal of Emmerich Manual High School after it had been taken over by the state for repeated failing grades. While he was there, the school went from an F to a D. Ernest was also a 2010 Indiana Teacher of the Year. He was appointed to the state board in 2016 by House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Marske said teachers and staff have been notified. Until they can find a new head of schools, Rachel Goodwin was appointed by K12 Inc. to fill the role. Goodwin was previously Senior Director of Academics for K12 Inc. and has been an educator in a Chicago charter school network.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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