European edition, Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A nearly six-month investigation into allegations of mismanagement of the closure of London Central Elementary/High School ended May 23 with no substantial findings, spokesmen for the Department of Defense Education Activity said Friday.

Authorities in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools system and Non-DOD Schools Program were accused of not adequately providing for students at the one-of-a-kind dormitory facility and underplaying the ramifications of the closure, said DODEA spokesman Frank O’Gara.

Last September, DODDS officials abruptly announced the school would close at the end of the academic year, and many students would have to enter the English education system.

The investigation process began last October when the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office received an anonymous complaint that the closure had been mishandled, said Gary Comerford, spokesman for the office.

In a long, and at times rambling, complaint, the person said parents had been provided “bogus information” and school authorities were unresponsive to questions asked by parents when the closure was announced.

On Dec. 1, 2006, the DOD IG’s office handed the case to DODEA for action, Comerford said. Then, in the middle of January, DODEA convened an “inquiry team” of administrators and Isles District teachers to look into the matter. The team broke the complaint into a rough list of 13 allegations, O’Gara said.

The team interviewed about 20 people and the Daws Hill commander over the next several months, according to O’Gara and Harvey Gerry, DODEA’s chief of policy and legislation.

Of the 13 allegations, the team substantiated and “partially substantiated” two items — that some students would be eligible for graduation by the age of 16, which is possible in the English system, and that an administrator had a conversation about a specific student’s needs without the parent’s permission, O’Gara said.

DODEA did not take action in regard to either issue, O’Gara said.

The thrust of the allegations concerned the differences between the British and American education systems and that the difficulty of transferring credits from one to the other was underplayed by school officials, Gerry said.

That’s an opinion held by Valerie Pace, who had two children in London Central when the closure was announced. Pace enrolled her kids in British schools, but later pulled them back out over fears it would leave them behind when they returned to the States.

She said parents were given little straight talk by administrators about the difficulties in moving students between the two systems and believed many kids would have trouble later attempting to enroll in stateside high schools and colleges.

Pace said a benefit of the investigation would be if “any light has been brought to places it has been avoided before,” but added she was not surprised at the results of the inquiry.

“It would never surprise me when a group, investigating itself, concludes they are completely innocent of any wrong,” she wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

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