Pasco School Board raises worries about charter school management firms
In reluctantly approving a charter school application for Charter Schools USA this week, Pasco County School Board members left the door wide open to reject the group's contract to open if their expectations are not met during negotiations.
Their biggest concern was that of having a large management firm run the charter school. They've had bad experiences with Imagine Schools and Richard Milburn Academy in the past, and they're not keen on a repeat.
"Our most difficult challenges ... are those with outside management companies that did not have Pasco County residents on the board," vice chairman Allen Altman said, noting that Charter School USA's application didn't include any local residents on its proposed board. "That concerns me greatly."
Others shared his view.
"We always have preferred and liked to have the governing board local and responsive to parents," Cynthia Armstrong said. "This way the board is being set up, I don't see where parents are going to have access to the board to get their concerns resolved in any type of timely manner."
She also said she believed the board must be separated from Charter Schools USA. The application offers the same out of town address for both the governing board and the management company. Chairwoman Joanne Hurley added that the people listed for the Pasco charter school board also appear on the board lists for more than 20 other Charter Schools USA schools.
"This is one giant conglomeration that is applying to Pasco County, and I don't see that this is going to be an easy road before us," Hurley said. "I have a great deal of anxiety about this one."
The board approved the application 4-1, with Altman opposed, but gave strong hints that the vote for a contract wouldn't be so easy. Ten other charter school applicants also are seeking to open in Pasco County for 2012-13. Only Charter Schools USA refused to give the district a longer period of time to fully examine the application, insisting on sticking closely to the state's 60-day response requirement.