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Pasco County School Board upholds rejections of charter school applications

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County School Board members on Tuesday upheld its staff's recommendations to deny requests for four charter schools, though they expressed concern about the process not allowing those wanting to open the schools enough time to revise their applications based on district feedback.

"We could make this process a little more black and white," said board member Allison Crumbley.

Among the denials was a charter proposal that state Rep. Will Weatherford and state Rep. Richard Corcoran and his wife, Anne, submitted this summer amid a flood of applicants who wanted to take advantage of a new state law making it easier to start charter schools.

Anne Corcoran defended the application Tuesday, saying deficiencies that staff cited in the application would be addressed when the contract was being drawn up. Among those was a lack of adequate funding. The proposed school, Classical Preparatory School, was depending on a government grant that had not yet been approved.

Anne Corcoran assured the board that the founders would have the money.

"If we don't get the grant, then we will not open," she said.

Among the flaws in the Classical Preparatory School application, the staff wrote, "The budget failed to reflect sufficient funds for computer hardware necessary for computer-based testing and annual allocations for teacher performance pay in accordance with Senate Bill 736." Both legislators supported the controversial bill relating to teacher evaluations, contracts and pay.

The staff also said the curriculum did not include a reading program for students above and below grade levels.

"It does not meet the letter of the law," said Nancy Scowcroft, supervisor of charter schools.

She also pointed out that the law requires all applications to be filed by Aug. 1, and those are considered to be final.

However, board members questioned why the district couldn't have them submitted before the deadline, so officials could offer feedback to enable applicants to "clean up" their submittals or provide documentation in time to be approved.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said that would be a policy decision and also would require staff to review applications year-round, which could prove overwhelming.

Board Chairwoman Joanne Hurley suggested a workshop to discuss the policies and called for a vote.

The staff also advised the School Board to turn down four other charter applications, which were filed by management companies outside of Pasco County. Those are Somerset Academy Elementary, Somerset Academy Middle, Florida Virtual Academy at Pasco and Abacus Math, Science and Technology Academy. Abacus withdrew its application and was not voted on.

Corcoran said that when she filed the application she and others supported bringing classical education to Pasco County because they saw the model elsewhere and were impressed with the results. They liked the focus on such things as logic and rhetoric, and wanted to replicate the method for their own children.

She currently homeschools her five children using classical education.

Charter school applicants who are rejected have the option of appealing to the state. No one said on Tuesday whether they would do that.

Pasco County School Board upholds rejections of charter school applications 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:53pm]
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