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Florida Board of Education blocks proposed charter school for Hernando County dropouts

BROOKSVILLE — In a surprise ruling, the state Board of Education has denied the appeal of a Fort Lauderdale company that sought to open a charter school for high school dropouts in Hernando County.

The unanimous vote Tuesday affirms the Hernando County School Board's decision to block Mavericks in Education from opening a 350-student school in the former Brooksville Regional Hospital building on Ponce De Leon Boulevard.

Board attorney J. Paul Carland said the company's efforts appeared to be at a legal dead-end. The decision reverses a February ruling by the state Charter School Appeal Commission that would have allowed the school to open this fall, and state law does not appear to provide further appeals, he said.

School Board members had said they supported Mavericks' goal of serving at-risk students and dropouts, but expressed concern over what they saw as a lack of control over public funds by the proposed school's local governing board.

Under its plan, the for-profit company would have drawn 97 percent of each student's state and local funds after paying the district a 5 percent service fee, with the remainder going to the nonprofit governing board.

But company CEO Mark Thimmig said those bare facts obscured a larger truth. He said the vast majority of funds would have been spent on Hernando students, and expenditures would have been controlled by the company's local board down to the last dime.

He said the school would have brought at least 30 jobs and more than $1 million in annual spending to the county.

"The school district won a victory," Thimmig said. "However, I just don't see how you call it a victory if it comes at the cost of parents, kids and the community."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Florida Board of Education blocks proposed charter school for Hernando County dropouts 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 7:53pm]
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