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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas may deny renewal of Life Skills charter school



Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen is recommending the school board deny renewal for the Life Skills charter school in St. Petersburg, pointing to poor FCAT scores and low graduation rates.

The school, which opened in 2005, currently enrolls 371 students - many of them struggling with traditional school settings and in need of credit recovery. Its charter runs through June 30.

Over the past four years, the school has averaged a 12 percent graduation rate, according to information contained in the board's latest agenda packet (go to page 328). By contrast, Bayside High School, a district-run school for at-risk students, has averaged a 37 percent rate over the same period.

Also by contrast, 8 percent of Life Skills South students scored a 3 or above on the FCAT retake in reading last spring, compared to 21 percent of the students at Bayside and 22 percent of the students in Pinellas as a whole. That's according to data compiled by Tom Massey, a USF professor hired by the district to assist charter schools in setting goals.

Neither Life Skills principal Phynedra Franklin nor officials at the school's corporate headquarters in Ohio returned calls for comment late Friday. White Hat Management operates 36 Life Skills centers in five states, including 10 in Florida (and a second Pinellas location in Clearwater).

Janssen is recommending denial at the same time the district is rolling out plans for a major revamp of its dropout prevention programs, which the St. Petersburg Times covered in this story Sunday. The board is expected to vote on the charter renewal at its meeting Tuesday.

UPDATE AT 11:24 P.M. The agenda item for the Life Skills charter has been changed. The superintendent isn't recommending "denial of a charter renewal," according to the change; she's asking for the authority "to provide notice of intent to non-renew" to the charter school's board. That would start the ball rolling on a process that could lead to termination of the charter. You can read the revised agenda item here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:54am]


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