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Heritage Academy

A view of Heritage Academy charter school in Jerome.

JEROME — A Jerome charter school administrator is taking legal action against the state for defamation.

Heritage Academy Superintendent Christine Ivie filed a $500,000 tort claim Monday against the Public Charter School Commission, according to a report from the Idaho Statesman. The claim, filed with the Idaho Secretary of State Office, seeks recovery for “defamation, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.”

Ivie is seeking the maximum $500,000 allowed under state law for tort claims. Ivie may file a lawsuit if the state denies the claim or does not respond in 90 days.

The claim is a response to a controversial executive session held by the commission in April. Commissioners criticized several charter schools for poor academic performance and expressed regret that Heritage remain open. They also accused Ivie of “malpractice” and discussed ways to convince legislators to close schools.

The meeting was initially private, but audio from the meeting was later accidentally released to the public.

Ivie claims the commission “repeatedly and outrageously insulted Dr. Ivie, Heritage Academy and the children of Jerome who attend Heritage Academy,” the Statesman reported.

In July, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence ruled the meeting likely violated open meeting laws. The commission has since acknowledged its violation, and the commission’s chair visited with city and school officials in Jerome at a meeting that Heritage declined to attend.

The Coalition of Charter School Families has pointed to the meeting as evidence that the commission is biased.

Coalition president Tom LeClaire called on commissioners to resign in July and suggested moving charter authorization locally. Trustees of Jerome School District originally expressed hesitance at the prospect of overseeing Heritage.

LeClaire accused commission staff of misrepresenting data to end charter renewals for certain schools. That assertion gained traction in August when test scores revealed Heritage saw academic improvement among the best in the state — a contradiction to statements made in the executive session.

Defenders of the commission, which authorizes most the state’s charters, see overhaul of the system as unnecessary. Idaho Education News reported in August that Gov. Brad Little and other key political figures support the commission as a way to hold schools accountable.

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