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University Prep still eyeing Tampa campus



University Prep is continuing with plans to open a charter school next fall in Hillsborough County, its founder said Monday.

Cheri Shannon also said the Pinellas charter school, which has had several problems since opening this fall, will have a new principal by the end of the semester. Shannon, the executive director of University Preparatory Academies, Inc., has been serving as the principal.

She was never supposed to helm the new charter school in Midtown St. Petersburg. But in the time-crunch to get the school open, Shannon said the school's funders asked around May if she would step in.

Shannon wasn't able to access University's Prep's building - the site of the former Southside Fundamental Middle - until June. She said Monday she was uncomfortable making any hires before she could enter the building.

A local board that was supposed to advise on the hiring of the school's principal has yet to be formed. University Prep opened applications for the local board on Friday. Hillsborough's charter school administrator has said a local board is a must for its school board.

Shannon has maintained that she didn't have enough time to get it up and running before school started.

When asked why, Shannon said the time Pinellas County Schools took with the charter's contract was longer than she had expected.

The school opened this August, and has since had at least 77 students withdraw (those numbers have been replenished, off the school's long waiting list). The school's curriculum director and several teachers left in the first few weeks.

The charter also came under scrutiny by the district when it used unauthorized school buses to transport kids to and from school. One crashed in September, injuring three students.

Shannon said the bus company's owner told her they'd been approved, and Shannon took her at her word. Pinellas administrator Dot Clark has said it was Shannon's responsibility to confirm that information with the district.

Shannon said that although she plans to continue with contract negotiations for a Tampa campus, it's possible the governing board will decide not to open a school.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:42am]


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