Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

Brooksville charter school proposal gets School Board backing

BROOKSVILLE — The old Moton School building looks as if it soon will be home to Brooksville's first charter school and the lone one on the east side of Hernando County.

Hernando School Board members spoke favorably about the proposed Brooksville Engineering, Science & Technology Academy at their Tuesday afternoon workshop, the first time board members publicly discussed the proposal. Afterward, a majority of members said they supported the BEST Academy, as it is known.

"I think it's going to do a lot for the east side of the county," said board member Dianne Bonfield. "I think it's a great idea."

She said she thought it was a long time coming.

School Board members were scheduled to vote formally on the proposal during their meeting Tuesday night.

Board members Matt Foreman John Sweeney both said they supported the charter school review committee's 9-0 recommendation to approve the charter.

Sweeney complimented district curriculum supervisor Jeff Yungmann and the review committee, saying they do a fine job of vetting potential charters.

"I just have to say thank you," Sweeney said at Tuesday's workshop. "Over the years, you and your committee have really protected the interests of the district. You do a great job. You're meticulous. I appreciate it."

With the exception of chairwoman Cynthia Moore, none of the board members asked questions about the proposed charter. Moore had relatively minor questions about how students would be bused and how volunteers would be vetted by the district.

The charter would take up residence at the old Moton School at 835 School St. in south Brooksville, a complex that once housed the county's African-American students.

As many as 132 middle school students would fill six classrooms. Initially, the school would include only sixth and seventh grades, expanding to eighth grade in its second year.

The projected opening would be fall 2013.

Charter schools are public schools that operate under a performance contract that frees them from many of the regulations for traditional public schools. The schools are still held accountable for academic and financial results.

Aimee Whitehead, president of the seven-person board spearheading the effort, has said the charter school would fill a void in a part of the county that doesn't currently have any charter schools.

The school has gotten support from superintendent Bryan Blavatt.

The BEST Academy would join the two Spring Hill campuses of Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology as the only charter schools in the county.

The BEST proposal has numerous ties to Gulf Coast and would be similar to those schools, which emphasize science and technology.

The idea for the school came after Joe Gatti and Nevin Siefert, the administrators at Gulf Coast, began looking at property in Spring Hill for Gulf Coast's second location.

Whitehead, a part-time online instructor at Gulf Coast, quickly became the driving force behind the project, Siefert said.

She modeled some of the new school's curriculum — and its emphasis on outdoor education, including kayaking and caving trips — after Gulf Coast's.

Siefert said he and Gatti also helped her with the "nuts and bolts" of the application process.

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