An employee at the McKeel Academy has been arrested for stealing $100,000 from the charter school. The former Assistant Director for Academy faces seven felony charges relating to her creation of fake companies to hide purchases, travel expenses and other illegal activities.
McKeel Academy’s three charter schools have had other serious management problems. When will the legislature address the charter management oversight issue? These McKeel charter schools have seen problems before. But, then, its board members are in the legislature.
Mckeel Academy’s board in Lakeland investigated allegations that its principal assaulted a staff member and coerced staff to contribute to Senator Kelli Stargel’s 2013 campaign fund. Both Representative Stargel, and her husband, Judge Stargel, have served on the advisory board since it opened. Florida Representative Seth Mckeel is chair of the board.
The McKeel Academy of Technology’s principal was jailed in 2010 for stalking.
The Lakeland Ledger published a 2010 report on charter school enrollment manipulation. At McKeel Academy high school, 12.5 percent of the students were ‘counseled out’ and returned to public schools with letters like: ‘Your child does not meet the criteria to be a McKeel student. At the McKeel middle school, 77 students were ‘counseled out’.
As of 2015, McKeel’ Academy enrollment included less than half (33%) the percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the Polk County district and had fewer than ten percent black students.
Senator Stargel has just filed a bill SB360 to determine why Florida’s eighth graders do less well than its fourth graders on the NAEP. Perhaps it would be more productive to focus on charter school management oversight issues. It reminds me of slogans that local citizens need to consider before they enroll children in privately operated charter schools:
CHOICE DROWNS OUT VOICE. Public schools are open to all and local citizens elect school board members.
· What is the choice: integrate or segregate?
· What is the choice: local schools or corporate charters?
· What is the choice: public records or hidden accounts?