Sunday, May 20, 2018
Education

Athenian Academy charter school sparring over number of seats in lottery

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Athenian Academy charter school has a 108-student problem as it prepares for its open enrollment lottery this evening.

The school wants to grow its student body to 498. The Pasco County School District says Athenian cannot expand its enrollment beyond its current level of 390.

The issue boils down to an interpretation of state law.

"They are a high performing charter school under statute," district charter school supervisor Nancy Scowcroft said. "But statute also says if they drop to a C or below, they cannot increase their enrollment for the following year."

Athenian Academy's state grade dropped from B to C last year. Lawyers for the district have told the administration that the upshot is clear: Athenian Academy can't grow.

Jim Mathieu, president of the charter school's governing board, challenged the district's point of view. He said the school's enrollment can be what the charter school and district agreed to contractually in June, when the School Board gave Athenian Academy a 15-year deal.

That contract says the K-8 school's enrollment will be up to 405 students in Year 1, and up to 498 students in Year 2.

"We're not seeking any more students than our contract says," Mathieu said. "How they can tell us we can't bring in the number of students we contracted to bring is confusing to us."

The charter school has hired a lawyer to make its case. But that effort could take time. And the lottery is happening now.

"It's jamming us up real bad," Mathieu said.

The school wants to be able to tell interested families whether they have seats for 2013-14 as soon as possible, he said.

School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said the district sent a letter to the Athenian Academy in February outlining its legal stance, and was waiting to see if the charter would file an appeal. But Mathieu said the charter school had made its opposition clear and was waiting for a response from the superintendent's office.

Scowcroft noted in a Sunday email to school choice director Lizette Alexander that the district had Athenian's letter for three weeks, and "We will need to get feedback from the Superintendent's staff on how to proceed." That note was forwarded to superintendent Kurt Browning the same day.

Browning sent a letter Wednesday afternoon reaffirming the district's position, that Athenian Academy's enrollment should be capped at 390.

That may not be the last word, though. "We may have to do two lotteries," Mathieu said — one with the lower number and another after the school completes its challenge of the district's stance.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18
The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The federal government now spends less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children, the result of cuts to federal welfare programs, according to a new research paper.In 1990, the government spent about $8,700 on every chi...
Published: 05/17/18
Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

ST. PETERSBURG — Sarah Agee and her friends never pictured themselves wearing Crocs to their graduation. But the foam shoes were comfortable, offered better footing than heels, and now the Seminole High seniors had a story to tell.It all started a li...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Romano: Instead of securing schools, lawmakers saved themselves

Romano: Instead of securing schools, lawmakers saved themselves

I said it two months ago, and it’s only become more obvious since then:The bipartisan school safety proposal passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor had more to do with protecting the rear ends of politicians than the lives of students.I...
Published: 05/16/18
High school graduations begin today across Tampa Bay

High school graduations begin today across Tampa Bay

Put on your gowns. Get in line. Cue Pomp and Circumstance .Tampa Bay’s high school graduation season begins in earnest today, with ceremonies for four schools planned at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Lakewood High will go first at 8:30 a.m., fol...
Published: 05/16/18