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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hernando raps charter school applicant

26

August

BROOKSVILLE -- A new charter school applicant faces two choices from the Hernando County School Board: revise its application by Oct. 1 or go home.

Earlier this summer the Fort Lauderdale-based Mavericks in Education applied to open a 400-student school exclusively for high school dropouts or at-risk students. Company officials say they've filed similar applications in nine other counties, including Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

Their plan contains plenty of flash: a year-round schedule, video games in the student lounge, and marketing help from pro basketball star Dwyane Wade.

But a Hernando staff committee has found "multiple deficiencies" in the for-profit company's proposed budget, as well as its plans for teaching special-needs students and struggling readers.

Among other things, its budget didn't include sufficient numbers of appropriately certified teachers to comply with state and federal requirements, and it used an inflated projection for state funding that "would wipe out the charter school's proposed first year (surplus) of $55,740," the committee found.

Any one of those problems would be sufficient to deny the application under state law, Hernando officials said.

And unlike the majority of Florida counties, the Hernando board's opinion holds considerable weight. Last week the state Board of Education granted it exclusive authority to judge charter applications, putting it outside the jurisdiction of the controversial Florida Schools of Excellence Commission.

Still, Hernando superintendent Wayne Alexander is recommending against outright denial. He said the company's dropout prevention plan could help the county "if it can be operated in an educationally and fiscally responsible manner," according to the staff report.

Mark Thimmig, president and CEO of Mavericks, said his company would happily go back to the drawing board.

"We have a very good working relationship with the school district," he said, describing Hernando's critique as a "very positive sign."

-- Tom Marshall, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:54am]

    

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