Thursday, August 16, 2018

Despite reservations, Pasco School Board approves new Academica charter school

A Miami firm seeking to open a charter school in Wesley Chapel encountered some resistance Tuesday from the Pasco County School Board, but ultimately prevailed in its request for a 5-year contract.

Pinecrest Academy is associated with Academica, one of Florida's largest charter school companies. It intends to launch a K-8 school with as many as 900 students in 2019, at a location that hasn't been disclosed.

Its application didn't show any local connections to the community, though. And that raised the hackles of board member Allen Altman, who wanted to know if and when the group's governing board would include Pasco County representation.

Fernando Barroso, listed as a Pinecrest parent liaison, didn't commit. He said he would bring the idea to the company, and perhaps it would add a local person if a spot opens on its board.

The board also will hold at least one meeting a year in Wesley Chapel, as required by law, he said. And it will have plenty of representation in the community, getting to know people and promoting its school.

"Pinecrest will be known in Wesley Chapel. I don't want you to think it's just an out of town organization coming into Pasco," Barroso told the board.

"Why would we think otherwise at this point?" Altman retorted.

Other board members agreed on the importance of having local representation on the charter school leadership. It gives parents an immediate contact for questions, without having to call an out-of-town entity, they said.

"We feel like that's the recipe for the best outcome for our students," vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley said.

They got only assurances that the company's representatives had met with district officials before making a proposal.

Superintendent Kurt Browning, meanwhile, had another concern.

"What does Pinecrest Academy provide to our students that we do not?" he asked Barroso. "That's a question that parents are going to want to know."

Barroso said he was "not sure I can tell you one thing specifically," then listed a handful of things the school would provide, such as STEM programs and advanced technology.

Browning said many Pasco schools already offer such programs. He suggested that charter schools should be somehow different and supplemental to district schools.

Left unsaid, but mentioned in the past, was that the district's schools in the Wesley Chapel area have consistently been growing and crowded. The charters offer seats the district does not have.

Despite the clear reservations, Browning recommended approval of the five-year contract, and the board unanimously agreed. Its action stood in stark contrast to the Sarasota County School Board, which rejected a Pinecrest application weeks earlier amid community complaints.

The reason, Browning said, was a simple one.

"At the end of the day, there's going to be charter schools," he explained, noting the company could simply appeal a rejection to the state, which most likely would instruct the board to okay the deal.

"They met all the [state] check marks," chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said.

That won't stop Browning, who said he will continue to ask questions so  the public understands whether the charters have anything to offer that's not in the district schools.

Comments

Dems vow to raise teacher pay

School leaders filled the Hillsborough High School auditorium Thursday to hear pitches from two of this year's Democratic candidates for governor.They were a study in contrasts as they addressed the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators: ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Teachers complain about campaign material in their email

Teachers complain about campaign material in their email

This post has been updated with the candidate's response.Laurie Rodriguez opened her Hillsborough County School District email and found a campaign flyer for Steve Cona, a builders association executive who is running for School Board.Rodriguez, a te...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Florida’s teacher shortage is ‘real, and it’s going to get worse,’ State Board of Ed member worries

Florida’s teacher shortage is ‘real, and it’s going to get worse,’ State Board of Ed member worries

As millions of Florida's school children returned to classes this week, many schools struggled to find enough teachers greet and teach them."We are very concerned about the growing teacher shortage," Cathy Boehme of the Florida Education Associa...
Published: 08/16/18
Florida education news: Budgets, audits, board races and more

Florida education news: Budgets, audits, board races and more

BUDGETS: Florida Board of Education members say local school districts should have more flexibility in how they spend their resources, while kicking off planning for their next legislative budget request. Teacher salaries and school security top...
Published: 08/16/18
Brooksville Elementary gets new principal

Brooksville Elementary gets new principal

Mike Lastra has been chosen as the new principal of Brooksville Elementary School, Hernando County school district announced Wednesday.He follows Jill Renihan, who recently left the position to take a job as the district's new director of s...
Published: 08/15/18
Florida Board of Education supports funding flexibility as it discusses budgets

Florida Board of Education supports funding flexibility as it discusses budgets

Teacher pay and school security topped the list of concerns for Florida Board of Education members Wednesday as they kicked off their annual legislative budget request process.Though they wondered where they might find the money for any added ex...
Published: 08/15/18
Achievement schools are getting those needed teachers

Achievement schools are getting those needed teachers

At Tuesday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting, Superintendent Jeff Eakins answered our questions about the 50 Achievement Schools and lingering teacher vacancies. The district's communications office gave us more information that we will shar...
Published: 08/15/18
State audit shows some students improperly received Florida Tax Credit Scholarships

State audit shows some students improperly received Florida Tax Credit Scholarships

To be eligible for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, children must meet specific financial criteria including household income standards.When issuing scholarships between 2015-2017, funding organization Step Up For Students did not pro...
Published: 08/15/18
Florida education news: Teacher pay, birthday treats, water supply and more

Florida education news: Teacher pay, birthday treats, water supply and more

TEACHER PAY: Pasco County School Board members said they want to look for money in the district budget to give employees raises. So far, they've asked questions but come up with no solid answers.TRANSPARENCY: Hillsborough County school dist...
Published: 08/15/18
Pasco School Board members ask questions, await answers in pursuit of money for raises

Pasco School Board members ask questions, await answers in pursuit of money for raises

Pasco County School Board members say they want to give employees pay raises this year.In the two weeks since declaring their desire, though, the board members have not submitted a single idea to the administration they say they would support to...
Published: 08/14/18