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AEA backs former charter school principal, will investigate possible illegal activity at LEAD Academy

The former principal at Montgomery charter school LEAD Academy said Tuesday that she was pushed out of the school improperly after board members discovered that she reported concerns about students’ safety and other improprieties that violated state law to the Alabama Department of Education. 

APR reported Tuesday morning, citing numerous employees at the school, that LEAD principal Nichole Ivey was pushed out following a heated argument with LEAD board president Charlotte Meadows. That argument, several teachers said, was the result of several incidents over the last few weeks, including Ivey’s report to the Department of Education and her refusal to force LEAD staff to sign an at-will work contract. 

‘Craziness’: How Montgomery’s first charter school has devolved into chaos in less than six weeks

Also on Tuesday, the Alabama Education Association said it would be representing Ivey in a complaint against LEAD, alleging Ivey was improperly removed as principal — a decision, according to her contract, that could only be made after a vote by the board. 

An AEA press release also stated that the organization would be investigating Ivey’s allegations of unsafe conditions and violations of state law. 

AEA is focused on ensuring that Dr. Ivey’s rights are respected by LEAD,” the press release stated. “It will also carefully examine the school’s legal compliance in general.”

In her first public comments on the matter, Ivey left little doubt that she believes Meadows, who is running for a state House seat in Montgomery, was a serious problem at LEAD. And that serious trouble exists at Montgomery’s first charter school.  

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“I was hired to be the principal of LEAD Academy, but all major decisions were and are made by Charlotte Meadows and Soner Tarim, the consultant hired by her,” Ivey is quoted saying in the statement from AEA. “Meadows asked me to resign shortly after I engaged in a series of discussions with officials at the State Department of Education about LEAD’s lack of compliance with multiple state laws applicable to charter schools regarding student health, safety, and financial accountability.”

“After speaking with those officials, I was called in last week by Meadows and told they ‘want to go in a different direction.’ I refused to engage in illegal activity and am confident that the truth will come out as this matter moves forward.”

Multiple LEAD employees backed Ivey’s claims in an APR story on Tuesday. Those staffers said they have witnessed more than 70 students in the K-5 school packed into one physical education class and a student who struck a teacher being returned to class without discipline. 

The teachers also complained about Meadows and Soner Tarim, who was hired to manage the school, overstepping their duties and inserting themselves into the day-to-day operations of the school. In one case, a teacher said Meadows took part in parent-teacher conferences.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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