Saturday, November 18, 2017
Education

Charter school groups to meet with Hillsborough officials

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TAMPA — Two groups that run charter schools in Hillsborough County agreed Friday to meet with the district, a step that could resolve a conflict affecting three schools.

After meeting this week, the Florida Charter Educational Foundation and Bay Area Charter Foundation said they're willing to have face-to-face discussions about their roles at the Woodmont, Winthrop and Henderson Hammock schools.

The offer comes a day after superintendent MaryEllen Elia assured families that even though the district might terminate the schools' charters, she won't close them this school year.

"Under no circumstances will we disrupt the education of students," Elia wrote, seeking to quell fears at the schools, which serve more than 2,000 students.

At issue, Elia wrote, is whether the schools are governed by local boards or the Florida board, which has close ties to the for-profit Charter Schools USA, the schools' management company.

For months district officials have tried to get clarity about the boards' roles.

Unable to arrange a meeting, Elia warned the schools last week that she would seek to terminate their charters. That warning touched off a letter-writing campaign from parents at the schools.

It also prompted a harsh response from Bay Area Charter Foundation chairman Rod Jurado, who called Elia's act "pathetic" and the district's record "abysmal."

Since then Jurado's tone has softened.

In a letter Friday to parents, he said he appreciated their support. He urged them to be patient as the two sides work toward a resolution.

"I ask you to remain positive," Jurado wrote. "We have truth and the law on our side and are very confident that this will be resolved quickly.

"We strongly encourage you to continue voicing your concerns to the School Board as well as Superintendent Elia.

"The more they understand how tremendous our school is, the better the chance they will begin supporting our success."

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