Metropolitan Ministries gives up its charter school

TAMPA — Metropolitan Ministries Academy, a charter school for homeless and at-risk students, has given up its license and asked the Hillsborough school district to take over "all academic responsibilities" this fall.

"We just felt the district would be best equipped to help us," said Tim Marks, the organization's chief operating officer. "We believe the district's expertise is education."

Charter schools are public, but are operated by independent organizations and have more leeway to develop programs and policies. The Hillsborough School Board is scheduled to vote today on terminating the contract with Metropolitan Ministries.

Last month, superintendent MaryEllen Elia told the nonprofit that it could lose its charter due to subpar academic performance. Last year the school received a state grade of F, based on students' performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Opened in 1998, the school teaches 78 children in kindergarten through fifth grade at the YMCA on East Palm Avenue; 21 students live in the homeless shelter. District officials said they would now operate the school in a partnership, with Metropolitan Ministries providing support outside the regular school day.

If the School Board terminates the charter, the district will immediately begin evaluating the school's faculty and staff, said Lewis Brinson, assistant superintendent for administration.

The school's principal already has announced he will leave, Brinson said, so the district will focus on building a team of teachers and administrators with experience in turning around troubled schools.

Board president Preston Farrior said the organization was getting out of the education business, but redoubling its efforts to serve the homeless.

"We will continue to invest in the Academy, with major improvements planned over the next five years," Farrior wrote in a June 5 letter to the district. "More importantly, we will invest in the overall continuum of care of both our resident and outreach families whose children attend the academy."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Metropolitan Ministries gives up its charter school 06/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 8, 2009 11:01pm]

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