Lake County Rejects New CSUSA Charter

curriculum plate-413157_1280NOTE: FROM KAREN WEST:  I served on the charter review committee as the “community member” for the second year.  Our strategy was to highlight all the weaknesses in the CSUSA proposal when we presented it to the Lake Cty. School Board in a workshop Sept. 19.  However, we did recommend approval of the application – with strong reservations – knowing that a rejection would then be handled by the appeals committee in Tallahassee which is heavily populated with friends of charter schools.

This vote by 4 of the 5 school board members was a surprise and delight to me!  It may have an impact of the selection of the new superintendent of schools, which will take place after the election of two new school board members.  As a representative of LWVTRI, I serve on that advisory board as well.

Many thanks to Sue M. Legg – chair of the LWVFL Education Committee for providing strong factual information about charter school companies and their financial dealings.

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Lake County School Board members reject application for charter school in Four Corners area

LIVI STANFORD livi.stanford@dailycommercial.com | Posted 12 hours ago

TAVARES – Lake County School Board members rejected an application Monday for a new charter school in the Four Corners area.

Lake Charter Academy would have served grades K-8, beginning with grades K-6 in the first year, according to the Florida Charter Educational Foundation application.

The charter’s application goes on further to state “it will fully enroll students through eighth grade, with a student population totaling 1,145 by year five.”

School Board Chairman Bill Mathias, the lone board member in favor of the school, said he supported the charter because they can build the school much faster and the district incurs no debt.

“It gives much needed relief,” he said.

Lake County School Board members on Sept. 20 rejected the idea of taking on more debt to build new schools in south Lake and to refurbish aging ones countywide.

School Board members voted 3-2, with School Board members Rosanne Brandeburg and Debbie Stivender dissenting, to approve a five-year capital plan without borrowing $25 million or $50 million.

The option School Board members voted for allows them to build a K-8 co-campus, including an elementary and middle school in the Four Corners area by 2021.

There have been persistent concerns that growth will continue to cause problems for the district.

“The most recent Florida Inventory of School Houses (FISH) reports show that of the 44 Lake County elementary, middle, senior high, or combination facilities in the county, over a quarter of them exceeded 88 percent of their FISH capacity” the charter school application stated.

Lake Charter Academy will “help alleviate these overcrowding issues by expanding capacity, which will support all schools in the area to better serve Lake County’s growing population,” the application stated.

The Charter School Review Committee approved the charter 15-2, with some reservations.

Those reservations included transportation issues, as there is only bus, and academics and school grades showing poor performance in Florida Charter Education Foundation Schools.

School Board member Marc Dodd shared those concerns.

“The academic performance of the school overseen by the governing board do not represent the academic performance of all Charter USA schools,” (the parent company of the Florida Charter Educational Foundation), he said.

Indeed, according to an interview school district officials had with representatives from the Florida Charter Educational Foundation, they acknowledged two of the schools earning a ‘C’, one a ‘D’, another receiving an ‘A” and a final one receiving an ‘I’.

“They did not even budget an estimated figure for the cost of land,” he added. “Their average salary is $39,000. That is going to mean an adjustment.”

The beginning salary for teachers in Lake County is $40,000, he said.

“I am not sure their budget works,” Dodd said. “I have financial concerns with that. Looking deeper into their academic record, if the balance of the schools in the A range were greater I would have greater comfort.”

Derek Kelmanson, representing Charter Schools USA, said Dodd raised several points that Kelmanson thought were addressed in the recent workshop.

“Out of the 53 schools Charter Schools USA manages, 81 percent received a passing grade,” he said.

Kelmanson addressed the salary issue, stating there was approval to raise the salary to $40,000.

Mathias said so far Kelmanson has been more than willing to communicate and be transparent and honest.

School Board member Stephanie Luke said the one concern she had is nothing stands out as new and innovative at the charter school.

“It doesn’t meet the true nature of what a charter school provides,” she said.

Superintendent Susan Moxley said she had many concerns with the school.

“I support choice for parents but I am concerned because the budget has limited technological resources,” she said. “I still have concerns about transportation. When students come in you have to be prepared to address that. The majority of the kids attending the school are not going to be transported. The biggest concerns have to do with facilities. I go back to the budget. There are big gaps in the facilities piece for me. At the end of the day, even in the previous charter school applications we had, we knew they were looking at this piece of property, to show there was some semblance of continuity. I am very uncomfortable with the budget breakdown and how it relates to the facilities.”

 

NOTE: FROM KAREN WEST:  I served on the charter review committee as the “community member” for the second year.  Our strategy was to highlight all the weaknesses in the CSUSA proposal when we presented it to the Lake Cty. School Board in a workshop Sept. 19.  However, we did recommend approval of the application – with strong reservations – knowing that a rejection would then be handled by the appeals committee in Tallahassee which is heavily populated with friends of charter schools.

This vote by 4 of the 5 school board members was a surprise and delight to me!  It may have an impact of the selection of the new superintendent of schools, which will take place after the election of two new school board members.  As a representative of LWVTRI, I serve on that advisory board as well.

Many thanks to Sue M. Legg – chair of the LWVFL Education Committee for providing strong factual information about charter school companies and their financial dealings.

 

Posted in Authorization, Charter School Management, Charter Schools, Curriculum, Facilities, Funding, Innovation.

2 Comments

  1. The Volusia County School board just unanimously denied a charter to Cornerstone. They had applied last year and withdrew. This year they only met 6 of the 39 criteria on the state charter school matrix according to district staff. Very surprising that the vote was unanimous, because there are three supporters of charter schools and choice serving on the board.

  2. The LWVPBC Education Committee in Palm Bch County is very proud that they helped to prevent 2 charter schools from opening. We provided important testimony at their hearings negating the need for those charter schools and will continue to monitor the need within Palm Bch County
    Sue Legg has been a valuable resource person. Thank you Sue..
    Elayne Goodman – LWVPBC.

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