Two key officials of the state Department of Education were fired amid controversy over charter schools in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, officials said Thursday.
The officials are:
• Jacob Landry, who was director of the department’s Office of Parental Options, which includes oversight of charter schools. He was paid $99,500 per year.
• Folwell Dunbar, an academic adviser in the same office who reportedly told colleagues last year that he was offered $25,000 to help “fix” problems uncovered by state officials at the New Orleans school. Dunbar was paid $72,500 per year.
The action came amid a growing investigation that now includes Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, near Kenilworth Parkway, and Abramson Science and Technology Charter School, in New Orleans.
The department is checking into allegations that Abramson, which was closed last week, was the site of sexual abuse and other problems.
Kenilworth was added to the investigation on Wednesday, officials said, because it is run by the same group — the Pelican Educational Foundation — and not because of any specific concerns.
Two Kenilworth officials on Thursday offered limited comments on the issue.
Ollie Tyler, acting state superintendent of education, announced the firings in a prepared statement on Wednesday night but initially declined to identify the officials.
Both names were released on Thursday in response to a public records request filed by The Advocate.
The dismissal letters to Landry and Dunbar did not spell out specific reasons for their dismissals.
“This letter is to inform you that your appointment will end effective immediately as of July 20, 2011,” each letter states.
The notices were signed by Erin Bendily, assistant deputy superintendent of departmental support and a former education advisor to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
In a prepared statement, Tyler said Thursday that Landry and Dunbar were dismissed not for any specific incident or incidents, “but rather a determination based on the need for a new direction and leadership in the agency’s charter school program.”
Neither Landry nor Dunbar responded to multiple email and phone inquiries.
Meanwhile, Tevfik Kosar, a member of the Pelican board that oversees Kenilworth, is in Europe and responded to questions by email.
“I am not aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct at Kenilworth,” Kosar wrote.
“The parents of the students at Kenilworth will be contacted and informed about the investigation, if they are not already,” he added.
Kosar is former president of the board and is a visiting professor in the LSU department of computer science.
Karen Fontenot, vice-president of the Pelican board, declined comment on the department’s announcement about Kenilworth.
“Our response has to be that we cannot comment on the investigation,” Fontenot said in a telephone interview.
“I would love to be able to tell you our side of the story,” Fontenot said. “I hope we will soon.”
Kenilworth has about 450 students in grades 6, 7 and 8.
Classes start on Aug. 10.
Charter schools are supposed to offer innovative education methods, without much of the red tape that accompanies traditional public schools.
Penny Dastugue, president of BESE, said Thursday the panel is being polled on whether to hold a special meeting on the charter school controversy.