For over two years, this scandal drags on in one of Palm Beach’s largest charter schools. Now the school is in complete chaos. Principals come and go within weeks of each other. One third of the teachers have left. Books do not arrive. The owner of the school has legal issues. He charged the school for preparing the proposal to open the school. He also has a combative personality.
When parents complained, he attacked. He called the sheriff claiming a parent hacked into his computer system. Why? The parent had organized an online petition to clean up the school’s management problems. Over two hundred families left the school. He recruited more with glossy ads emphasizing an arts infused curriculum. The much heralded dance program had no teacher. Children wanting to play instruments had to pay extra for after school lessons.
Some children love the carefree atmosphere, but their test scores have plummeted. The school grade is down to a ‘D’. Forty percent of the students passed the State’s English Language Arts test and 24% passed the math. This is not a low income school, yet it is near the bottom in academic achievement.
Who is to blame for this fiasco? The district is investigating, but the charter school law does not give them authority to clean up the mess until serious criminal charges or total academic failure are evident. Self dealing is evidently still allowed.
Parents are told they can leave; that is their only recourse. The State of Florida does not intervene. After all, even though charters are ‘public schools’, they are run by private businesses. If a businessman wants to run the school into the ground, he can.
I watched a similar situation occur in Gainesville. Watching was all I could do. Half the parents and most teachers left. The school district shook their heads. The school is still open. The only thing public in charter schools is the money funding them.
This is the direction the Florida legislature is headed. If we want it stopped, they need to know. Tell them over and over again.