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OKC Charter School Principal Speaks Out After Firing

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Former principal Tamara Washington received her termination as principal of Harper Academy Charter School by the chairman of the school's board. Former principal Tamara Washington received her termination as principal of Harper Academy Charter School by the chairman of the school's board.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

An Oklahoma City area charter school principal was fired amid allegations of academic deficiencies.

That principal is now sharing her side of the story, saying she was wrongfully terminated. News 9 is told an OKCPS audit could reveal some troublesome findings at the neighborhood charter school for high-risk students. But the former principal fired late last month defends her leadership.

"I'm the co-founder. This is my dream. I wrote the program," Tamra Washington said.

Washington received her termination as principal of Harper Academy Charter School by the chairman of the school's board; a board formed specifically to run day to day school operations.

"I just wanted what I needed so that I could be successful with these students because that was my responsibility," said Washington. "It was totally out of my control. I could only do what I could do with what I was given, and then I pulled my own resources to do what I was able to do."

On the day of Washington's firing, she says there were safety issues and violence at the school, so she made the decision to release students early and cancel school for the next two days. The hope was to come up with a plan to address the issues. 

"I could not bring those children back into that building under those circumstances," said Washington.

Washington says she was fired via text message later that night by the chairman of the school's board, after members say attempts to meet with her that night were unsuccessful. 

Washington says she's been concerned about school operations, both academic and financial, since at least August. She says requests for additional resources were rarely if ever met.

"I needed more staff. I needed armed security," said Washington. "I need computers. I need full sets of textbooks. I have subjects that we are offering where we have no textbooks and I can't purchase any of those things. I purchased what I could out of my pocket."

Now, the school is under investigation.

"We will go into executive session at the next board meeting to discuss what's happening to Harper," said OKCPS board member, Bob Hammack.

Hammack, on the OKCPS board, not the charter schools board says red flags have been raised by the district's legal team.

"They have to fill out a pretty good amount of legal work, financial disclosure," said Hammack. "And it appears that someone is not meeting those obligations."

Hammack says the board upholds high standards for both public and charter schools in the district.

"Just because you're a charter school, that doesn't exempt your from meeting those standards. In fact, as a board, I think we hold them to higher standards because we're giving them freedom. Charter schools are like public schools, in fact they're part of the Oklahoma City public school system. They're run by people and there are some good people, and there's some less talented people," said Hammack. "Really in this market we're blessed and we have a number of charter schools that really perform off the charts, in many cases, much better than the private schools, but it's unfortunately not always across the board."

Hammack says charter schools receive federal funding and money from OKCPS.

"We are ultimately accountable for how they run their schools, so we try to keep a real close eye on how they run their financials," said Hammack. "It's always disappointing as a member of the board when you give people an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do, and they let you down, an even worse than that, let the students down."

"I think that those who were in charge made some decisions that negatively impacted those students," said Washington.

OKCPS attorneys are expected to give Oklahoma City school board members a complete overview of the Harper Academy Charter investigation at the next school board meeting.

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