Pasco district changes procedures for reviewing charter schools
Pasco County school district officials found several deficiencies in the Pepin Academies application to open a charter school in the county. In the past, that would have been enough for a quick denial, no questions asked.
Superintendent Kurt Browning, in his first round of reviewing charter requests, decided that wasn't so fair. So in a deviation from the district's longstanding practice, Browning sent Pepin officials a lengthy letter detailing the problems in their submission, such as a failure to provide monthly cash flow projections and a start-up budget based on non-guaranteed funding.
He gave Pepin a week to respond.
"He is providing them the opportunity to provide technical responses that are allowed in law and policy," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe explained.
District policy states: "The Board shall evaluate all timely, complete applications during the evaluation process, 1) applications cannot be amended and 2) missing documentation and unsolicited information will not be accepted or considered. However, as required by law, the Board shall allow the applicant, upon receipt of written notification, seven (7) calendar days to make technical or nonsubstantive corrections and clarifications, including, but not limited to corrections of grammatical, typographical, and like errors or to add missing signatures, if such errors are identified as cause to deny the application."
Under past leadership, the district did not seek added input from applicants, who have included state Rep. Will Weatherford and Center for Independence CEO Emile Laurino. Instead, they were turned away and told to apply again.
A lawyer for Pepin sent Browning an 11-page response to his staff concerns, seeking to clarify any misunderstandings. The group asked for a School Board vote on Nov. 5.
Browning and his review staff said they have not looked at Pepin's letter yet. They plan to have a recommendation to the board by next week.
Pepin is a Tampa-based charter school serving students with special needs. It has a strong reputation, and has attracted the support of some prominent Pasco leaders. It has been trying to expand since the spring.