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Decisions on Hernando charter schools likely to stay at home

BROOKSVILLE — Little more than a month before it must vote on a new charter school application, the Hernando County School Board is on the verge of getting exclusive authority to evaluate such bids within its jurisdiction.

The state Department of Education is recommending that Hernando join a small list of counties that would be beyond the reach of a controversial state body that independently authorizes public charter schools. The state Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the matter next week.

"Wow, that's great," said superintendent Wayne Alexander upon hearing the news Thursday. "That's fantastic."

On Tuesday, Hernando County school district officials said a Fort Lauderdale company, Mavericks in Education, had filed an application to open a public charter school for high school dropouts and at-risk students. The School Board is expected to vote on the application Sept. 16.

It was just last November that Hernando and all but three of Florida's 67 counties were told by the state that they would have to share power over charter schools with the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission.

Formed in 2006 by the Legislature, the commission was designed to provide an alternative to applicants that had been denied or troubled by local school boards.

Many school districts appealed that decision, and Hernando joined several of them in a lawsuit challenging the commission's legality. Under the state Constitution, they insisted, local school boards have the exclusive authority to "operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district." Oral arguments in the suit are expected to begin in September.

While Hernando officials would celebrate a state decision to grant it exclusive authority, Alexander said he found much to like in Mavericks' application.

"They've done their homework," he said, praising the company's focus on at-risk teens. "It's preliminary, but (it's possible) there's a way they can provide a service to us and help us prevent kids from dropping out of school."

Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report. Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Decisions on Hernando charter schools likely to stay at home 08/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 8:09pm]
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