… & this is Why the Caged Bird sings

Written by on January 25, 2011

Tears came to her eyes as seconds ticked away. She’s a single mother of two daughters in the middle of a 10-day jail term — a convicted felon — all because of the school the girls attended.

Years ago, she said she took her daughters from Akron’s public housing after their home was burglarized and placed them with their grandfather in Copley Township.

Kelley Williams-Bolar pauses before answering a question about her case and the effect it will have on her life during an interview at the Summit County Jail. Williams was sentenced to 10 days in jail, placed on three years of probation and ordered to perform community service after being convicted of falsifying residency records so that her two children could attend Copley-Fairlawn schools. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

Summit County prosecutors contend the move was all a ruse, however, and the girls belonged in Akron Public Schools, not the Copley-Fairlawn district. Williams-Bolar and her father were indicted. She was convicted of tampering with records.

This week, Common Pleas Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove stunned Williams-Bolar with the jail term. On Thursday, during an interview from the Summit County Jail, Williams-Bolar asked the inevitable question:

”If I had the opportunity, if I had to do it all over again, would I have done it? . . . ,” she said. After almost a half-minute of silence, she answered her own question.

”I would have done it again,” she said. ”But I would have been more detailed. . . . I think they wanted to make an example of me.”

Kelley Williams-Bolar answers questions about her case during an interview at the Summit County Jail. Williams was sentenced to 10 days in jail, placed on three years of probation and ordered to perform community service after being convicted of falsifying residency records so that her two children could attend Copley-Fairlawn schools. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

The details and paperwork involved in placing her daughters with their grandfather are what she contends spurred the school to investigate the residency of her children.

That investigation led to the county’s first-ever criminal indictment accusing a parent of theft and record tampering for usurping school residency requirements.

Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh will not comment on the case, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Dressed in a black-and-white striped jail uniform, Williams-Bolar said she expected probation when she was sentenced Tuesday.

Kelley Williams-Bolar (right) is escorted back to her cell at the Summit County Jail. Williams was sentenced to 10 days in jail, placed on three years of probation and ordered to perform community service after being convicted of falsifying residency records so that her two children could attend Copley-Fairlawn schools. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

She still contends she had two homes: Hartford Avenue in Akron, where she lived in subsidized housing provided by the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, and her father’s home on Black Pond Drive in Copley.

”I had a home, but I also had my family home [with my father],” she said. ”The family home just so happened be in Copley. If he lived a mile and a half closer, we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

Once again during the interview, Williams-Bolar recounted the number of families, more than three dozen, who were accused of violating residency laws, none of whom went to trial. She said she was never offered the opportunity to plead to a misdemeanor.

She intends to appeal her conviction.

”All of those other cases and they only select me and my dad,” she said. ”It doesn’t add up.”

At risk with the felony conviction, she said, is her future in education. Williams-Bolar is employed as a special needs teaching assistant at Buchtel High School. She also said she is about one semester shy of graduating with an education degree from the University of Akron.

”I’m not going to give up on my education,” she said.

It was the crime in her neighborhood and her insistence that her daughters would not be latch-key children that fueled the school change, she said. A burglary just after Christmas one year, she said, was the last straw. She said she wanted to maintain her independence and declined to move in with her father.

”I felt it was my duty,” she said. ”I could not conceive of them walking home after our home was violated.”

Williams-Bolar’s two girls, now 16 and 12, attended Copley schools from 2006-2008. They left the Copley-Fairlawn district before the 2009 school term.

She insists the girls spent the majority of their time at their grandfather’s home. She contested the residency issue with state officials and provided them with a power of attorney given to her father.

Prosecutors, however, presented documents Williams-Bolar signed in 2008, along with a juvenile court docket, indicating her girls lived with her in Akron and that she used her father’s address for Copley school registration.

While incarcerated, Williams-Bolar said she speaks by phone with her daughters. The girls are living with their grandfather until she is freed next week.

”I’m upset because I have never been away from my family,” she said.

Her father, Edward L. Williams, 64, went on trial with his daughter. A jury deadlocked on a charge of grand theft.

Williams said in an interview Thursday that his phone is ringing incessantly from supporters, who feel the felony conviction and jail term are unwarranted.

He cautioned, however, that emotions are inflamed. He asked for calm in the hopes of an eventual positive resolution.

”I’d like everybody to get along and obviously see this thing go away,” he said. ”Some people go to extremes to show they have power. And we know who has the power in the community. But, now I think is the time for everybody to come together.”

Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove sentences Kelley Williams-Bolar sentenced to 10 days in the Summit County Jail, three years of probation following her release and 80 hours of community service in the Summit County Courthouse Tuesday Jan. 18, 2011 in Akron, Ohio. She was found guilty of two third degree felonies for having her children attend Copley schools while being an Akron resident. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

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