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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Charter schools group looks ahead to area-wide expansion

The board of directors for three Hillsborough charter schools met Friday at Henderson Hammock. Next year there could be seven managed by Charter Schools USA. In 2020 there could be many more.


The board of directors for three Hillsborough charter schools met Friday at Henderson Hammock. Next year there could be seven managed by Charter Schools USA. In 2020 there could be many more.



If Rod Jurado gets his wish, Charter Schools USA will operate 20 schools in the Tampa Bay area by 2020.

There's no telling if that prediction -- called "hairy and bombastic" by some in his circle -- will come true.

But already, the organization Jurado chairs has three Hillsborough schools and was green-lighted this year to open four more.

Even of they stop at seven, the Florida Charter Education Foundation and Bay Area Charter Foundation will serve more than 8,000 students when they reach build-out. Those numbers would make them bigger than more than a third of the school districts in Florida (27 out of 67).

The four-member board goes by two names because of financial arrangements that were made to build the schools. Jurado, a Temple Terrace consultant, chairs the group, which also consists of religious leader Valora Cole, state Rep. James Grant and accountant Seema Jain.

They hope to add a fifth member: Allen Witt, president of the Hillsborough Community College's SouthShore campus.

Meeting Friday morning at the Henderson Hammock school in Citrus Park, the group and the school principals went over test scores, fundraising projects, Great American Teach-In guests and enrollment numbers. They discussed "Quest," a Charter Schools USA system of internal accountability that has administrators visit each other's schools. Borrowing from the school district's new mission, Jurado said, "there's layer upon layer of just making sure we are accountabile, and preparing kids for life." As in district-run schools, they described partnerships with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Florida Aquarium; and behavior incentive programs, including a Karaoke Friday in the Woodmont Charter School cafeteria.

They also discussed the contrasts between the three existing schools. Winthrop, in the Riverview area, has more than 1,300 students in grades K-8 and a waiting list of 3,000. Woodmont, which serves a largely low-income community in the fringes of Temple Terrace, has 741 students and a lot of mobility. Ten enrolled recently, but nine left, said principal Latasha Scurry.

The most common reason was a lack of transportation.

Looking ahead, Jurado said he and the Fort Lauderdale-based management company are considering numerous scenarios for the four new Hillsborough schools.

One will be in Plant City. One will be in the Ruskin area. A high school has been approved to take graduates of Winthrop, and that's an area where the group might be creative. Discussions are under way to include a 9th grade, temporarily, in the K-8 Ruskin school. There are other possible combinations of grades, even 6-12, until both new schools are built.

As for the final K-8 school that was pitched for northwest Hillsborough, that school might wind up in New Tampa instead. Charter Schools USA has had trouble getting a school approved in Pasco County, and Jurado is thinking a New Tampa school might be able to serve students from both counties.

As for the goal of 20 by 2010? They'd be scattered throughout Hillsborough, Pasco -- once the political climate changes there -- Pinellas, Polk and perhaps Manatee.

The board meets next on Jan. 8 at Winthrop.

[Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2015 6:59pm]


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