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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco charter school negotiations headed to mediation



An all-but-dead effort by Charter Schools USA to open a new school in Pasco County has won a last-minute reprieve.

The school district has agreed to the Broward management company's request to state-led mediation over contract terms that the two sides could not settle during lengthy, down-to-the-wire talks. The firm filed paperwork seeking mediation five minutes before its extended negotiating deadline was to expire.

"We're going to try to negotiate with them in good faith," School Board lawyer Dennis Alfonso told the Gradebook.

The key matter of dispute centers on the firm's desire that its for-profit limited liability corporation hold the contract with the school district, counter to what Alfonso says state law permits. Other items also remain unresolved, including concerns over enrollment figures, financial reporting and curriculum.

Board members have been hesitant to deal with the Charter Schools USA application, saying they did not like the idea of having a large management company with no local ties running a local school. They reluctantly moved forward, though, because they felt compelled by a new state law allowing such firms to replicate their "high performing" schools in other parts of Florida.

Seminole schools, by contrast, have challenged the law in court rather than accept a Charter Schools USA application. Alfonso said he's watching the suit, and other legal wranglings over charter schools. But he added that mediation is no guarantee of a positive outcome for Charter Schools USA, which could always reapply and start the entire process over, including a longer charter.

The Pasco board earlier this spring rejected the firm's attempt to delay its contract talks, instead accepting only an offer to delay the school opening if terms can be reached. A new application would reset the clock. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 9:14am]


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