Pinellas: Students are leaving new charter school voluntarily
An investigation by Pinellas County Schools has not found evidence that students who left a new charter school were kicked out, the district's charter school liaison said.
Parents had been calling the district's offices claiming the weeks-old University Preparatory Academy told students with behavioral issues that they needed to leave and find another school.
Not only would that shortchange the student's needs, but kicking out so-called "problem students" would also allow a charter school to boost its performance data by "cherry-picking" students.
Dot Clark, the partnership schools coordinator for Pinellas, said that 23 children had been withdrawn from University Prep since the school year started. She interviewed 10 or 11 parents. "There was no one who said they were told to leave," Clark said.
Instead, some parents felt their child was being bullied. Some just wanted to go back to their home schools. Others were concerned that some textbooks had not been purchased yet and were concerned their children were going to fall behind, Clark said.
University Prep is a very large charter school, particularly for its first year. It opened in the former site of Southside Fundamental in the Midtown neighborhood of St. Petersburg to 515 children. Another 100 are on the waiting list.
The district is also aware that some of the class sizes at University Prep are too large, with 30 or more students. Clark said she spoke with the principal, who is working to separate some classrooms.