Charter school group makes pitch to lease Southside Fundamental
The new charter school group headed up by Goliath Davis wants to lease the building that until 2009 housed Southside Fundamental Middle School.
At yesterday's workshop, school board members agreed (but did not vote) to direct board attorney Jim Robinson to work with the big names behind the Learning Village group and come up with a proposed lease/purchase option. (Attorney Guy Burns, also a leader in the charter effort, submitted the draft proposal attached below.) But they also had plenty of questions about the potential arrangement, which is intended to benefit black students.
Linda Lerner and Peggy O'Shea wondered about the precedent that would be set for future charter interests who may seek to use school board property. Janet Clark worried it might be a problem to approve a lease agreement before the board had a chance to weigh the merits of whatever charters might be proposed for the site. "It's putting the cart before the horse," said Clark, who also said she liked the concept. "Then we're going to be the bad guys if the charter doesn't look good."
Davis said the new group wanted to simultaneously look for a building and get potential charter operators on the path to start-up.
Any lease/purchase agreement would of course have to be approved by the board. The board directed staff to detail maintenance costs for the Southside building and determine the fair market value of the property. No timeline was set for any of that.
Some board members also offered praise for the concept.
"It's about the kids," Lerner said. "We have a large achievement gap, which is all around the country, but the statistics came out. There's more of a gap in Pinellas. This would be a wonderful opportunity for us to learn what can be done in a small setting."
"Please let's not be so concerned that by helping some group of students we're going to lose some money," said board member Lew Williams.
There was also praise for the team behind the effort, which besides Davis and Burns includes former state Rep. Bill Heller, former teachers union president and now Step Up for Students president Doug Tuthill and former Pinellas administrator Linda Benware.
"I have a great deal of confidence in this leadership group," said board member Terry Krassner.
"The confidence level I had when I was approached was very high," said Superintendent Julie Janssen.